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Immunometabolic Effect of Cholesterol in Hepatitis C Infection: Implications in Clinical Management and Antiviral Therapy

Karina González-Aldaco, Luis A. Torres-Reyes, Claudia Ojeda-Granados, Alexis José-Ábrego, Nora A. Fierro, Sonia Román


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a lipid-enveloped virion particle that causes infection to the liver, and as part of its life cycle, it disrupts the host lipid metabolic machinery, particularly the cholesterol synthesis pathway. The innate immune response generated by liver resident immune cells is responsible for successful viral eradication. Unfortunately, most patients fail to eliminate HCV and progress to chronic infection. Chronic infection is associated with hepatic fat accumulation and inflammation that triggers fibrosis, cirrhosis, and eventually hepatocellular carcinoma. Despite that the current direct-acting antiviral agents have increased the cure rate of HCV infection, viral genotype and the host genetic background influence both the immune response and lipid metabolism. In this context, recent evidence has shown that cholesterol and its derivatives such as oxysterols might modulate and potentialize the hepatic innate immune response generated against HCV. The impairment of the HCV life cycle modulated by serum cholesterol could be relevant for the clinical management of HCV-infected patients before and after treatment. Alongside, cholesterol levels are modulated either by genetic variations in IL28B, ApoE, and LDLR or by dietary components. Indeed, some nutrients such as unsaturated fatty acids have demonstrated to be effective against HCV replication. Thus, cholesterol modifications may be considered as a new adjuvant strategy for HCV infection therapy by providing a biochemical tool that guides treatment decisions, an improved treatment response and favoring viral clearance. Herein, the mechanisms by which cholesterol contributes to the immune response against HCV infection and how genetic and environmental factors may affect this role are reviewed.

Key words. Innate immune response, Lipid metabolism, HCV life cycle, Genetic polymorphisms, Diet

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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