Open Access Research article

Altered expression of cell cycle and apoptotic proteins in chronic hepatitis C virus infection

Saira Sarfraz1, Saeed Hamid2*, Anwar Siddiqui1, Snawar Hussain3, Shahid Pervez4 and Graeme Alexander5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

2 Department of Medicine, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

3 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinios, USA

4 Department of Histopathology, Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan

5 Department of Medicine, Addenbrooke's Hospital, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 2QQ, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Microbiology 2008, 8:133  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-133

Published: 5 August 2008

Abstract

Background

A disrupted cell cycle progression of hepatocytes was reported in chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, which can contribute significantly in the associated pathogenesis. The present study aimed to further elaborate these disruptions by evaluating the expression of key cell cycle and apoptotic proteins in chronic HCV infection with particular reference to genotype 3. Archival liver biopsy specimens of chronic HCV-infection (n = 46) and normal histology (n = 5) were analyzed by immunohistochemistry using antibodies against proliferation marker Mcm-2, G1 phase marker Cyclin D1, S phase marker Cyclin A, cell cycle regulators p21 (CDK inhibitor) and p53 (tumor suppressor protein), apoptotic protein Caspase-3 and anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2.

Results

Elevated Mcm-2 expression was observed in hepatocytes in chronic HCV infection, indicating increased cell cycle entry. Cyclin D1 expression was higher than cyclin A, which suggests a slow progression through the G1 phase. Expression of cell cycle regulators p21 and p53 was elevated, with no concordance between their expressions. The Mcm-2 and p21 expressions were associated with the fibrosis stage (p = 0.0001 and 0.001 respectively) and that of p53 with the inflammation grade (p = 0.051). Apoptotic marker, Caspase-3, was mostly confined to sinusoidal lining cells with little expression in hepatocytes. Anti-apoptotic protein, Bcl-2, was negligible in hepatocytes and detected principally in infiltrating lymphocytes. Expression of all these proteins was unrelated to the HCV genotype and were detected only rarely in the hepatocytes of normal liver.

Conclusion

The results showed an arrested cell cycle state in the hepatocytes of chronic HCV infection, regardless of any association with genotype 3. Cell cycle arrest is characterized by an increased expression of p21, in relation to fibrosis, and of p53 in relation to inflammation. Furthermore, expression of p21 was independent of the p53 expression and coincided with the reduced expression of apoptotic protein Caspase-3 in hepatocytes. The altered expression of these cell cycle proteins in hepatocytes is suggestive of an impaired cell cycle progression that could limit the regenerative response of the liver to ongoing injury, leading to the progression of disease.