Lay Summaries - Volume 66 Issue 5

Lay Summary: In chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, CD4+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) can reduce antiviral immune responses, promote liver fibrosis and may increase the risk for liver cancer, because they gradually expand during disease. Modern direct-acting antiviral agents (DAA) can “cure” hepatitis C in almost all treated patients. However, our study shows that DAA do not normalize the increased frequency and activation status of Tregs even long-term after HCV elimination. Tregs may persistently modulate functions of the immune system even after “cure” of hepatitis C.
Lay Summary: Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections represent a major public health problem worldwide. Over 200 million people are chronically infected and at risk of developing chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and cancer. Our work aimed to understand the molecular consequences of chronic hepatitis B in the infected liver. It was conducted in a large cohort of untreated chronically infected HBV patients and analysed the expression of immunity and liver disease-related genes in the liver, with respect to markers of viral replication and persistence. Our results indicate that chronic HBV infection has a suppressive effect on immune responses, which was more pronounced with high levels of hepatitis B virus surface antigen (HBsAg). These data provide novel insight into the mechanisms of HBV persistence in the liver and suggest that approaches aimed at reducing HBsAg levels, may restore immune responsiveness against the virus.
Lay Summary: The efficacy of treatments using NS5A inhibitors for patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection can be affected by the presence of NS5A resistance-associated substitutions (RASs). We reviewed results from 35 clinical trials where patients with genotype 1 HCV infection received treatments that included ledipasvir-sofosbuvir to determine how prevalent NS5A RASs are in patients at baseline, and found that ledipasvir-specific RASs were present in 8–16% of patients prior to treatment and had a negative impact on treatment outcome in subset of patient groups, particularly treatment-experienced patients with genotype 1a HCV.
Lay Summary: Chronic hepatitis C is a global health problem with infected individuals at risk of developing liver disease that can progress to hepatocellular carcinoma. Autotaxin generates the biologically active lipid lysophosphatidic acid that has been reported to play a tumorigenic role in a wide number of cancers. In this study we show that hepatitis C virus infection increases autotaxin expression via hypoxia inducible transcription factor and provides an environment in the liver that promotes fibrosis and liver injury. Importantly, we show a new role for lysophosphatidic acid in positively regulating hepatitis C virus replication.
Lay Summary: Enhanced activity of IFN signaling pathways can cause excessive inflammation and tissue damage. Here we show that peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from patients with alcoholic cirrhosis exhibit a defect in interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs). We found that higher baseline ISG expression in PBMCs was associated with higher risk of death, revealing a probable contribution of ISG expression in immune cells to the outcome of alcoholic cirrhosis.
Lay Summary: Recent genomic studies have identified frequent mutations of ARID2, a component of the SWItch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) complex, in hepatocellular carcinoma, but it is not still understood how ARID2 exhibits tumor suppressor activities. In current study, we provided evidence that ARID2 knockout could contribute to disruption of DNA repair process, resulting in susceptibility to carcinogens and potential hypermutation. These findings have far-reaching implications for therapeutic targets in cancers harboring ARID2 mutations.
Lay Summary: Molecular analysis of mixed hepatocellular cholangiocarcinoma (HCC-CCA) showed that cholangiolocellular carcinoma (CLC) is distinct and biliary in origin. It has none of the traits of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, within mixed HCC-CCA, stem-cell type tumors shared an aggressive nature and poor outcome, whereas the classic type showed a common cell lineage for both the HCC and the intrahepatic CCA component. The pathological classification of mixed HCC-CCA should be redefined because of the new molecular data provided.
Lay Summary: PARP1 is activated in the non-alcoholic fatty liver of mice and patients. Inhibition of PARP1 activation alleviates lipid accumulation and inflammation in fatty liver of mice.
Lay Summary: Our findings demonstrate that LSEC co-present antigen to CD8 and CD4 T cells and thereby enable CD4 T cell help for LSEC-priming of CD8 T cells. This CD4 T cell help selectively enhances the rapid upregulation of GzmB and effector function of LSEC-primed CD8 T cells thereby enhancing functional differentiation towards CD8 effector T cells.
    Molecular and Cell Biology
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    Kyle A. Soltys, Kentaro Setoyama, Edgar N. Tafaleng, Alejandro Soto Gutiérrez, Jason Fong, Ken Fukumitsu, Taichiro Nishikawa, Masaki Nagaya, Rachel Sada, Kimberly Haberman, Roberto Gramignoli, Kenneth Dorko, Veysel Tahan, Alexandra Dreyzin, Kevin Baskin, John J. Crowley, Mubina A. Quader, Melvin Deutsch, Chethan Ashokkumar, Benjamin L. Shneider, Robert H. Squires, Sarangarajan Ranganathan, Miguel Reyes-Mugica, Steven F. Dobrowolski, George Mazariegos, Rajavel Elango, Donna B. Stolz, Stephen C. Strom, Gerard Vockley, Jayanta Roy-Chowdhury, Marilia Cascalho, Chandan Guha, Rakesh Sindhi, Jeffrey L. Platt, Ira J. Fox
Lay Summary: Hepatocyte transplantation can potentially be used to treat genetic liver disorders but its application in clinical practice has been impeded by inefficient hepatocyte engraftment and the inability to monitor rejection of transplanted liver cells. In this study, we first show in non-human primates that pretreatment of the host liver with radiation improves the engraftment of transplanted liver cells. We then used this knowledge in a series of clinical hepatocyte transplants in patients with genetic liver disorders to show that radiation pretreatment and rejection risk monitoring are safe and, if optimized, could improve engraftment and long-term survival of transplanted hepatocytes in patients.
Lay Summary: Hepatocytes are liver cells with tops and bottoms; that is, they are polarised. At their bottoms they absorb substances from blood. They then, at their tops, secrete these substances and their metabolites into bile. When polarity is lost, this directional flow of substances from blood to bile is disrupted and liver disease follows. In this study, using a new mouse model with a liver-specific mutation of Vps33b, the mouse version of a gene that is mutated in most patients with arthrogryposis, renal dysfunction and cholestasis (ARC) syndrome, we investigated how the Vps33b gene product contributes to establishing hepatocyte polarity. We identified in these mice abnormalities similar to those in children with ARC syndrome. Gene transfer could partly reverse the mouse abnormalities. Our work contributes to the understanding of VPS33B disease and hepatocyte polarity in general, and may point towards gene transfer mediated treatment of ARC liver disease.
Lay Summary: In this study, we demonstrated that the microRNA-449 family acts as a tumor suppressor in liver cancer by causing cell death and inhibiting cell migration. These effects are caused by downregulation of the oncogene SOX4, which is frequently overexpressed in liver cancer. We conclude that the microRNA-449 family may be a target for liver cancer therapy.
Lay Summary: There is an increase in fatty liver for patients with chronic liver disease, linked to the epidemic of the obesity. Invasive liver biopsies are considered the best means of diagnosing fatty liver. The ultrasound based controlled attenuation parameter (CAP) can be used instead, but factors such as the underlying disease, BMI and diabetes must be taken into account.
Lay Summary: Currently, it is not known whether dietary fructose consumption and uric acid (UA) concentration are linked with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in children and adolescents. Our aim was to test whether UA concentrations and fructose consumption are independently associated with NASH in children and adolescents with proven non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We show that both dietary fructose consumption and serum UA concentrations are independently associated with NASH and fructose consumption was independently linked with high serum UA concentrations.
Lay Summary: Fatty liver disease caused by being overweight with diabetes and a high risk of heart attack, termed non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), is the most common serious liver disease with no current treatment. There could be several causes of inflammation in NASH, but activation of a protein scaffold within cells termed the inflammasome (NLRP3) has been suggested to play a role. Here we show that cholesterol crystals could be one pathway to activate the inflammasome in NASH. We used a drug called MCC950, which has already been shown to block NLRP3 activation, in an attempt to reduce liver injury in NASH. This drug partly reversed liver inflammation, particularly in obese diabetic mice that most closely resembles the human context of NASH. In addition, such dampening of liver inflammation in NASH achieved with MCC950 partly reversed liver scarring, the process that links NASH to the development of cirrhosis.