The standard treatment for CH-C, pegylated interferon-α and ribavirin (PEG-IFN + RBV), is associated with depression. Recent studies have proposed a new role for cytokines in the pathogenesis of depression. We aimed to assess differential gene expression related to depression in CH-C patients treated with PEG-IFN + RBV. We included 67 CH-C patients being treated with PEG-IFN+RBV. Of the entire study cohort, 22% had pre-existing depression, while another 37% developed new depression in course of the treatment. Pretreatment blood samples were collected into PAXgene™ RNA tubes, the RNAs extracted from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were used for one step RT-PCR to profile 160 mRNAs. Differentially expressed genes were separated into up- and down-regulated genes according to presence or absence of depression at baseline (pre-existing depression) or following the initiation of treatment (treatment-related depression). The mRNA expression profile associated with any depression and with treatment-related depression included four and six genes, respectively. Our data demonstrate a significant down-regulation of TGF-β1 and the shift of Th1-Th2 cytokine balance in the depression associated with IFN-based treatment of HCV infection. We propose that TGF-β1 plays an important role in the imbalance of Th1/Th2 in patients with CH-C and depression. With further validation, TGF-β1 and other components of Th1/Th2 regulation pathway may provide a future marker for CH-C patients predisposed to depression.
Keywords: Depression, hepatitis C, interferon, ribavirin, TGFβ1, Th1/Th2 cytokines, treatment