1. Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Niigata University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Niigata 951-8510, Japan;
2. Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Saiseikai Niigata Daini Hospital, Niigata 950-1104, Japan;
3. Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Niigata City General Hospital, Niigata 950-1197, Japan;
4. Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Tachikawa General Hospital, Nagaoka 940-8621, Japan.
Objectives: To determine whether the soluble programmed cell death ligand 1 (sPD-L1) levels in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) are associated with the clinical features of the disease and the efficacy of treatment, including interferon (IFN)-α.
Methods: We investigated the sPD-L1 levels in the sera of 80 genotype 1b Japanese patients with CHC who underwent 12 weeks of telaprevir (TVR)- or simeprevir (SMV)-based triple therapy followed by 12 weeks of dual therapy with pegylated IFN-α plus ribavirin. Serum was also obtained from 22 patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) and from 10 healthy donors (HC). The sPD-L1 levels were measured using an ELISA kit. In addition, we examined the PD-L1 expression on the cell surface of immortalized hepatocytes (HPT1) after incubation with cytokines, including IFN-γ.
Results: The pretreatment serum sPD-L1 levels were significantly increased in patients with CHC (median 109.3 pg/ml, range 23.1-402.3) compared with patients with CHB (69.2 pg/ml, 15.5-144.8; P <0.001) and HC (100.3 pg/ml, 40.1-166.6; P = 0.039). No significant differences in the sustained virological response (SVR) rates were found between the TVR- (85.0%, n=40) and SMV-treated (80.0%, n=40) groups, and the pretreatment levels of serum sPD-L1 were not significantly different between patients who achieved SVR (105.0 pg/ml, 23.1-402.3) and non-SVR patients (133.5 pg/ml, 39.9-187.2; P = 0.391). The pretreatment level of sPD-L1 was positively correlated with the alanine aminotransferase and alpha-fetoprotein levels (R2 = 0.082, P = 0.016, and R2 = 0.149, P = 0.002, respectively). Although immortalized hepatocytes do not express PD-L1, we confirmed that PD-L1 expression was induced after stimulation with IFN-γ.
Conclusions: In this study, we first found that sPD-L1 was increased in patients with CHC. Our results indicate that the level of serum sPD-L1 might be associated with the progression of CHC and the generation of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Keywords: soluble programmed cell death ligand 1, programmed cell death 1, chronic hepatitis C, Telaprevir, Simeprevir.