Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection results in sustained immune activation in both the periphery and hepatic tissue. HCV infection induces innate immune signaling that is responsible for recognition of dsRNA, leading to activation of transcription factors and production of Type I and III IFNs, as well as pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Continued activation of host-immune mediated inflammation is thought to contribute to pathologic changes that result in progressive hepatic fibrosis. The current standard treatment for chronic HCV infection is directly-acting antivirals (DAAs), which have provided the unique opportunity to determine whether successful, rapid treatment-induced eradication of viral RNA normalizes the dysregulated antiviral innate immune response in patients chronically infected with HCV. Results: First, in patients receiving two different combinations of DAAs, we found that DAAs induced not only rapid viral clearance, but also a re-setting of antiviral immune responses in the peripheral blood. Specifically, we see a rapid decline in the expression of genes associated with chronic IFN stimulation (IFIT3, USP18, IFIT1) as well as a rapid decline in genes associated with inflammation (IL1β, CXCL10, CXCL11) in the peripheral blood that precedes the complete removal of virus from the blood. Interestingly, this rapid reversal of innate immune activation was not seen in patients who successfully clear chronic HCV infection using IFN-based therapy. Next, using a novel humanized mouse model (Fah-/-RAG2-/-IL2rgnull—FRG), we assessed the changes that occur in the hepatic tissue following DAA treatment. DAA-mediated rapid HCV clearance resulted in blunting of the expression of proinflammatory responses while functionally restoring the RIG-I/MAVS axis in the liver of humanized mice. Conclusions: Collectively, our data demonstrate that the rapid viral clearance following treatment with DAAs results in the rebalancing of innate antiviral response in both the peripheral blood and the liver as well as enhanced antiviral signaling within previously infected hepatocytes.
Burchill, M. A., Roby, J. A., Crochet, N., Wind-Rotolo, M., Stone, A. E., Edwards, M. G., … Rosen, H. R. (2017). Rapid reversal of innate immune dysregulation in blood of patients and livers of humanized mice with HCV following DAA therapy. PLoS ONE, 12(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0186213