The antiviral, antiproliferative and immunomodulatory effects of type I interferons (IFNs) are well documented, however, few studies have been published concerning differences in the antitumor effects of IFN-α and β. In the present study, differences in antitumor effect, including the antiproliferative effect, cell cycle change, apoptosis, and the IFN-stimulated gene (ISG) were examined by flow cytometry between IFN-α and β on three human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines (HepG2, Huh7 and JHH4). The antiproliferative effect of both IFNs on the HCC cell lines was time- and dose-dependent, and IFN-β was significantly stronger than IFN-α. The cell cycle effect by both IFNs was an S-phase accumulation, with IFN-β having a tendency to increase the S-phase ratio more strongly than IFN-α, especially in Huh7. Apoptosis marker expression, Fas antigen and intracellular active caspase-3, was increased after the addition of IFNs, especially of IFN-β. The expression of human leukocyte antigen-class I molecules, ISG-encoded protein, was increased after the addition of IFNs, especially of IFN-β. These data suggest that IFN-β has a greater antitumor effect than IFN-α on HCC of a very early stage in patients with chronic hepatitis C.
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