CD56+dim and CD56+bright cell activation and apoptosis in hepatitis C virus infection
Hepatitis C, Chronic
Killer Cells, Natural
CD3- CD56(+dim) natural killer (NK) cells, which are cytotoxic against virally infected cells, may be important in hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected patients who are successfully treated with pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN)-alpha. We used flow cytometry to enumerate activated (CD69+) and apoptotic (annexin-V+) dim (CD3- CD56(+dim)) and bright (CD3- CD56(+bright)) NK cells obtained from HCV-infected patients before treatment (n=16) and healthy controls (n=15) in the absence and presence of pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN)-alpha-2b. A subset of HCV-infected patients, subsequently treated with PEG-IFN-alpha-2b in vivo, was determined to have a sustained virological response (SVR, n=6) or to not respond (NR) to treatment (n=5). In the absence of IFN, activated dim (CD3- CD56(+dim) CD69+) NK cells were significantly decreased (P=0.04) while activated apoptotic dim (CD3- CD56(+dim)CD69+ annexin-V+) NK cells tended to be increased (P=0.07) in SVR patients compared with NR patients. Activated bright (CD3-CD56(+bright)CD69+) and activated apoptotic bright (CD3- CD56(+bright)CD69+ annexin-V+) NK cells were significantly correlated (P=0.02 and P=0.01, respectively) with increasing hepatic inflammation. These findings suggest that in the absence of PEG-IFN, activated dim (CD3- CD56(+dim)CD69+) NK cell turnover may be enhanced in SVR compared with NR patients and that activated bright (CD3- CD56(+bright)CD69+) NK cells may play a role in liver inflammation.