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1.  The i148m Pnpla3 polymorphism influences serum adiponectin in patients with fatty liver and healthy controls 
BMC Gastroenterology  2012;12:111.
Reduced adiponectin is implicated in the pathogenesis of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and steatohepatitis (NASH), and the I148M Patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 (PNPLA3) polymorphism predisposes to NAFLD and liver damage progression in NASH and chronic hepatitis C (CHC) by still undefined mechanisms, possibly involving regulation of adipose tissue function. Aim of this study was to evaluate whether the I148M PNPLA3 polymorphism influences serum adiponectin in liver diseases and healthy controls.
To this end, we considered 144 consecutive Italian patients with NAFLD, 261 with CHC, 35 severely obese subjects, and 257 healthy controls with very low probability of steatosis, all with complete clinical and genetic characterization, including adiponectin (ADIPOQ) genotype. PNPLA3 rs738409 (I148M) and ADIPOQ genotypes were evaluated by Taqman assays, serum adiponectin by ELISA. Adiponectin mRNA levels were evaluated by quantitative real-time PCR in the visceral adipose tissue (VAT) of 35 obese subjects undergoing bariatric surgery.
Adiponectin levels were independently associated with the risk of NAFLD and with the histological severity of the disease. Adiponectin levels decreased with the number of 148 M PNPLA3 alleles at risk of NASH both in patients with NAFLD (p = 0.03), and in healthy subjects (p = 0.04). At multivariate analysis, PNPLA3 148 M alleles were associated with low adiponectin levels (<6 mg/ml, median value) independently of NAFLD diagnosis, age, gender, BMI, and ADIPOQ genotype (OR 1.67, 95% c.i. 1.07-2.1 for each 148 M allele). The p.148 M PNPLA3 variant was associated with decreased adiponectin mRNA levels in the VAT of obese patients (p < 0.05) even in the absence of NASH. In contrast, in CHC, characterized by adiponectin resistance, low adiponectin was associated with male gender and steatosis, but not with PNPLA3 and ADIPOQ genotypes and viral features.
The I148M PNPLA3 variant is associated with adiponectin levels in patients with NAFLD and in healthy subjects, but in the presence of adiponectin resistance not in CHC patients. The I148M PNPLA3 genotype may represent a genetic determinant of serum adiponectin levels. Modulation of serum adiponectin might be involved in mediating the susceptibility to steatosis, NASH, and hepatocellular carcinoma in carriers of the 148 M PNPLA3 variant without CHC, with potential therapeutic implications.
PMCID: PMC3444917  PMID: 22898488
Adiponectin; Adiponutrin; Chronic hepatitis C; Fibrosis; Gender; Genetics; Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; Pnpla3; Steatosis
2.  Paradoxical Lower Serum Triglyceride Levels and Higher Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Susceptibility in Obese Individuals with the PNPLA3 148M Variant 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39362.
Obesity is highly associated with elevated serum triglycerides, hepatic steatosis and type 2 diabetes (T2D). The I148M (rs738409) genetic variant of patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 gene (PNPLA3) is known to modulate hepatic triglyceride accumulation, leading to steatosis. No association between PNPLA3 I148M genotype and T2D in Europeans has been reported. Aim of this study is to examine the relationship between PNPLA3 I148M genotypes and serum triglycerides, insulin resistance and T2D susceptibility by testing a gene-environment interaction model with severe obesity.
Methods and Findings
PNPLA3 I148M was genotyped in a large obese cohort, the SOS study (n = 3,473) and in the Go-DARTS (n = 15,448), a T2D case-control study. Metabolic parameters were examined across the PNPLA3 I148M genotypes in participants of the SOS study at baseline and at 2- and 10-year follow up after bariatric surgery or conventional therapy. The associations with metabolic parameters were validated in the Go-DARTS study. Serum triglycerides were found to be lower in the PNPLA3 148M carriers from the SOS study at baseline and from the Go-DARTS T2D cohort. An increased risk for T2D conferred by the 148M allele was found in the SOS study (O.R. 1.09, 95% C.I. 1.01-1.39, P = 0.040) and in severely obese individuals in the Go-DARTS study (O.R. 1.37, 95% C.I. 1.13-1.66, P = 0.001). The 148M allele was no longer associated with insulin resistance or T2D after bariatric surgery in the SOS study and no association with the 148M allele was observed in the less obese (BMI<35) individuals in the Go-DARTS study (P for interaction  = 0.002). This provides evidence for the obesity interaction with I48M allele and T2D risk in a large-scale cross-sectional and a prospective interventional study.
Severely obese individuals carrying the PNPLA3 148M allele have lower serum triglyceride levels, are more insulin resistant and more susceptible to T2D. This study supports the hypothesis that obesity-driven hepatic lipid accumulation may contribute to T2D susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3377675  PMID: 22724004
3.  Patatin-like phospholipase domain containing-3 gene I148M polymorphism, steatosis, and liver damage in hereditary hemochromatosis 
AIM: To investigate whether the patatin-like phospholipase domain containing-3 gene (PNPLA3) I148M polymorphism is associated with steatosis, fibrosis stage, and cirrhosis in hereditary hemochromatosis (HH).
METHODS: We studied 174 consecutive unrelated homozygous for the C282Y HFE mutation of HH (C282Y+/+ HH) patients from Northern Italy, for whom the presence of cirrhosis could be determined based on histological or clinical criteria, without excessive alcohol intake (< 30/20 g/d in males or females) or hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus viral hepatitis. Steatosis was evaluated in 123 patients by histology (n = 100) or ultrasound (n = 23). The PNPLA3 rs738409 single nucleotide polymorphism, encoding for the p.148M protein variant, was genotyped by a Taqman assay (assay on demand, Applied Biosystems). The association of the PNPLA3 I148M protein variant (p.I148M) with steatosis, fibrosis stage, and cirrhosis was evaluated by logistic regression analysis.
RESULTS: PNPLA3 genotype was not associated with metabolic parameters, including body mass index (BMI), the presence of diabetes, and lipid levels, but the presence of the p.148M variant at risk was independently associated with steatosis [odds ratio (OR) 1.84 per p.148M allele, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.05-3.31; P = 0.037], independently of BMI and alanine aminotransaminase (ALT) levels. The p.148M variant was also associated with higher aspartate aminotransferase (P = 0.0014) and ALT levels (P = 0.017) at diagnosis, independently of BMI and the severity of iron overload. In patients with liver biopsy, the 148M variant was independently associated with the severity (stage) of fibrosis (estimated coefficient 0.56 ± 0.27, P = 0.041). In the overall series of patients, the p.148M variant was associated with cirrhosis in lean (P = 0.049), but not in overweight patients (P = not significant). At logistic regression analysis, cirrhosis was associated with BMI ≥ 25 (OR 1.82, 95% CI: 1.02-3.55), ferritin > 1000 ng/mL at diagnosis (OR 19.3, 95% CI: 5.3-125), and with the G allele in patients with BMI < 25 (OR 3.26, 95% CI: 1.3-10.3).
CONCLUSION: The PNPLA3 I148M polymorphism may represent a permissive factor for fibrosis progression in patients with C282Y+/+ HH.
PMCID: PMC3374985  PMID: 22719190
Fatty liver; Fibrosis; Hemochromatosis; HFE protein; Iron overload; Patatin-like phospholipase domain containing-3 gene; Steatosis
4.  The Association of Genetic Variants with Hepatic Steatosis in Patients with Genotype 1 Chronic Hepatitis C Infection 
Digestive diseases and sciences  2012;57(8):2213-2221.
Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the IL28B and PNPLA3 gene regions have been associated with hepatic steatosis in genotype 1 (G1) chronic HCV infection but their clinical impacts remain to be determined.
We sought to validate these associations and to explore their impact on treatment response to peginterferon and ribavirin therapy.
A total of 972 G1 HCV-infected Caucasian patients were genotyped for the SNPs rs12979860 (IL28B) and rs2896019 (PNPLA3). Multivariable analysis tested IL28B and PNPLA3 for association with the presence of any steatosis (>0 %); clinically significant steatosis (>5 %); steatosis severity (grade 0–3/4); and the interacting associations of the SNPs and hepatic steatosis to sustained viral response (SVR).
IL28B and PNPLA3 polymorphisms were associated with the presence of any steatosis (rs12979860, p = 1.87 × 10−7; rs2896019, p = 7.56 × 10−4); clinically significant steatosis (rs12979860, p = 1.82 × 10−3; rs2896019, p = 1.27 × 10−4); and steatosis severity (rs12979860, p = 2.05 × 10−8; rs2896019, p = 2.62 × 10−6). Obesity, hypertriglyceridemia, hyperglycemia, liver fibrosis, and liver inflammation were all independently associated with worse steatosis. Hepatic steatosis was associated with lower SVR, and this effect was attenuated by IL28B. PNPLA3 had no independent association with SVR.
IL28B and PNPLA3 are associated with hepatic steatosis prevalence and severity in Caucasians with G1 HCV, suggesting differing potential genetic risk pathways to steatosis. IL28B attenuates the association between steatosis and SVR. Remediable metabolic risk factors remain important, independently of these polymorphisms, and remain key therapeutic goals to achieve better outcomes for patients with HCV-associated hepatic steatosis.
PMCID: PMC3518927  PMID: 22543885
Polymorphism, single-nucleotide, SNP; IL28B protein, human; PNPLA3 protein, human; Adiponutrin, human; Fatty liver; Abdominal obesity metabolic syndrome
5.  The PNPLA3 rs738409 148M/M Genotype Is a Risk Factor for Liver Cancer in Alcoholic Cirrhosis but Shows No or Weak Association in Hepatitis C Cirrhosis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27087.
An isoleucine>methionine mutation at position 148 in the PNPLA3 gene (p.I148M, rs738409) has recently been identified as a susceptibility factor for liver damage in steatohepatitis. Here, we studied whether the PNPLA3 rs738409 polymorphism also affects predisposition to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
We compared distributions of PNPLA3 genotypes in 80 and 81 Caucasian patients with alcoholic and hepatitis C virus (HCV)-associated HCC to 80 and 81 age- and sex-matched patients with alcohol-related and HCV-related cirrhosis without HCC, respectively. PNPLA3 genotypes in 190 healthy individuals from the same population served as reference. Potential confounders obesity, diabetes, HCV genotype and HBV co-infection were controlled by univariate and multivariate logistic regression with forward variable selection.
PNPLA3 genotypes were in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium for all study groups. The frequency of the 148M allele was significantly (p<0.001) increased in alcoholic cirrhosis with (53.7%) and without HCC (36.2%) but was not different between healthy controls (22.9%) and patients with cirrhosis (25.3%; p = 0.545) and HCC (30.2%; p = 0.071) due to hepatitis C. HCC risk was highest in 148M/M homozygous patients with alcoholic liver disease (odds ratio (OR) 16.8 versus healthy controls; 95% confidence interval (CI) 6.68–42.43, p<0.001). Finally, multivariate regression confirmed 148M/M homozygosity (OR 2.8; 95%-CI: 1.24–6.42; p = 0.013) as HCC risk factor in alcoholic cirrhosis. In HCV-related cirrhosis only HCV genotype 1 was confirmed as a HCC risk factor (OR 4.2; 95%-CI: 1.50–11.52; p = 0.006).
The PNPLA3 148M variant is a prominent risk factor for HCC in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis, while its effects are negligible in patients with cirrhosis due to HCV. This polymorphism provides an useful tool to identify individuals with particularly high HCC risk in patients with alcoholic liver disease that should be taken into account in future HCC prevention studies.
PMCID: PMC3210131  PMID: 22087248
6.  No Correlation between PNPLA3 rs738409 Genotype and Fatty Liver and Hepatic Cirrhosis in Japanese Patients with HCV 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81312.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is associated with the development of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma and is also related to fatty change of the liver. Variation in patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 (PNPLA3) gene is associated with disease progression in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Recent reports have suggested that PNPLA3, IL28B and TLR4-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) may have an impact on hepatic steatosis or fibrosis in patients with chronic HCV infection.
Methods and Findings
Four SNPs (PNPLA3 rs738409, TLR4 rs4986790, TLR4 rs4986791, IL28B rs8099917) were identified in Japanese patients infected with HCV. We examined the association between the distribution of these SNP alleles and fatty change of the liver or existence of hepatic cirrhosis diagnosed by ultrasonography, one of the widely accessible and easy-to-use methods. PNPLA3 rs738409 G-allele and IL28B rs 8099917 minor allele were found in 70.0% and 31.1%, respectively. These two TLR4 SNPs were uniform in Japanese. Fatty change of the liver developed independent of the abscence of hepatic cirrhosis on sonographic findings and younger age. Hepatic cirrhosis was associated with a higher aspartate aminotransferase/platelet ratio index (APRI), no fatty change of the liver, higher BMI and higher AFP levels. No association between PNPLA3 rs738409/IL28B rs8099917 genotypes and hepatic steatosis or liver fibrosis was observed.
According to ultrasound examinations, no association between PNPLA3 rs738409 genotype and fatty change of the liver or hepatic cirrhosis was found in Japanese patients infected with HCV. Together, our results suggested that the mechanism of hepatic steatosis underlying HCV infection might differ from that of NAFLD and should be explored.
PMCID: PMC3859490  PMID: 24349054
7.  Interaction between PNPLA3 I148M Variant and Age at Infection in Determining Fibrosis Progression in Chronic Hepatitis C 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e106022.
Background and Aims
The PNPLA3 I148M sequence variant favors hepatic lipid accumulation and confers susceptibility to hepatic fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. The aim of this study was to estimate the effect size of homozygosity for the PNPLA3 I148M variant (148M/M) on the fibrosis progression rate (FPR) and the interaction with age at infection in chronic hepatitis C (CHC).
FPR was estimated in a prospective cohort of 247 CHC patients without alcohol intake and diabetes, with careful estimation of age at infection and determination of fibrosis stage by Ishak score.
Older age at infection was the strongest determinant of FPR (p<0.0001). PNPLA3 148M/M was associated with faster FPR in individuals infected at older age (above the median, 21 years; −0.64±0.2, n = 8 vs. −0.95±0.3, n = 166 log10 FPR respectively; p = 0.001; confirmed for lower age thresholds, p<0.05), but not in those infected at younger age (p = ns). The negative impact of PNPLA3 148M/M on fibrosis progression was more marked in subjects at risk of altered hepatic lipid metabolism (those with grade 2–3 steatosis, genotype 3, and overweight; p<0.05). At multivariate analysis, PNPLA3 148M/M was associated with FPR (incremental effect 0.08±0.03 log10 fibrosis unit per year; p = 0.022), independently of several confounders, and there was a significant interaction between 148M/M and older age at infection (p = 0.025). The association between 148M/M and FPR remained significant even after adjustment for steatosis severity (p = 0.032).
We observed an interaction between homozygosity for the PNPLA3 I148M variant and age at infection in determining fibrosis progression in CHC patients.
PMCID: PMC4149487  PMID: 25171251
8.  Insulin resistance and steatosis in HBV-HCV co-infected patients: Role of PNPLA3 polymorphisms and impact on liver fibrosis progression 
World Journal of Hepatology  2014;6(9):677-684.
AIM: To evaluate steatosis, insulin resistance (IR) and patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 (PNPLA3) and their relation to disease progression in hepatitis B and C viruses (HCV-HBV) co-infected patients.
METHODS: Three hundred and thirty patients with biopsy proven chronic hepatitis were enrolled: 66 had HBV-HCV, 66 HBV and 198 HCV infection. Prevalence of steatosis, IR and PNPLA3 polymorphisms and their relation to anthropometric, biochemical, virological and histological parameters were evaluated.
RESULTS: Prevalence of steatosis in group HBV-HCV was similar to that in HCV (47.0% vs 49.5%, respectively); group HBV showed the lowest steatosis (33.3%). Group HBV-HCV had a lesser degree of steatosis than HCV (P = 0.016), lower HCV RNA levels (P = 0.025) and lower prevalence and degree of IR (P = 0.01). PNPLA3 polymorphisms were associated with steatosis. Group HBV-HCV showed higher levels of liver fibrosis than group HCV (P = 0.001), but similar to that observed in HBV group. In HBV-HCV group, liver fibrosis was not associated with steatosis, IR or PNPLA3. HBV infection was the independent predictor of advanced liver fibrosis.
CONCLUSION: HBV-HCV co-infected patients have lower degree of hepatic steatosis, IR and HCV RNA than HCV mono-infected; co-infected patients showed a more rapid liver fibrosis progression that seems to be due to the double infection and/or HBV dominance.
PMCID: PMC4179147  PMID: 25276284
Steatosis; Insulin resistance; Hepatitis B and C viruses co-infection; Patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3; Liver fibrosis
9.  Interactions of Allelic Variance of PNPLA3 with Nongenetic Factors in Predicting Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis and Nonhepatic Complications of Severe Obesity 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2013;21(9):1935-1941.
Allelic variation (rs738409C→G) in adiponutrin (patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing protein 3, PNPLA3) has been associated with hepatic steatosis and liver fibrosis. The physiologic impact of the PNPLA3 G allele may be exacerbated in patients with severe obesity. In this study, we investigated the interactions of PNPLA3 rs738409 with a broad panel of metabolic and histologic characteristics of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in patients with medically complicated obesity.
Design and Methods
Consecutive patients undergoing bariatric surgery were selected for a prospective study. They underwent extensive laboratory and histologic (liver biopsy) assessment, as well as evaluation of rs738409 polymorphism by TaqMan assay.
Only 12 (8.3%) of the 144 patients had normal liver histology, with 72 (50%) NASH, of whom 15 (10.4% of total patients) had fibrosis stage 2–3. PNPLA3 GG genotype correlated positively (P < 0.05) with serum levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), asparate aminotransferase (AST), glucose, fibrinogen, and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, homeostasis model assessment—insulin resistance, and presence of NASH. Multivariate analysis indicated that PNPLA3 rs738409 G versus C allele remained an (independent) risk factor for NASH, in addition to CK-18 >145 IU/l, glucose >100 mg/dl, and C-reactive protein (CRP) >0.8 mg/dl. The probability of NASH increased from 9% (no risk factor) to 82% if all four risk factors were present.
In this cohort of patients with medically complicated obesity, PNPLA3 rs738409 G allelic expression is associated with hepatic (NASH) and nonhepatic complications of obesity, such as insulin resistance. These novel findings may be related to a greater impact of PNPLA3 variant in magnitude and scope in patients with severe obesity than in less obese populations. Further studies are needed to characterize the nature of these associations.
PMCID: PMC3896123  PMID: 23418085
10.  A Common Variant in the Patatin-Like Phospholipase 3 Gene (PNPLA3) Is Associated with Fatty Liver Disease in Obese Children and Adolescents 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2010;52(4):1281-1290.
The genetic factors associated with susceptibility to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in pediatric obesity remain largely unknown. Recently, a nonsynonymous single-nucleotide polymorphism (rs738409), in the patatin-like phospholipase 3 gene (PNPLA3) has been associated with hepatic steatosis in adults. In a multiethnic group of 85 obese youths, we genotyped the PNLPA3 single-nucleotide polymorphism, measured hepatic fat content by magnetic resonance imaging and insulin sensitivity by the insulin clamp. Because PNPLA3 might affect adipogenesis/lipogenesis, we explored the putative association with the distribution of adipose cell size and the expression of some adipogenic/lipogenic genes in a subset of subjects who underwent a subcutaneous fat biopsy. Steatosis was present in 41% of Caucasians, 23% of African Americans, and 66% of Hispanics. The frequency of PNPLA3(rs738409) G allele was 0.324 in Caucasians, 0.183 in African Americans, and 0.483 in Hispanics. The prevalence of the G allele was higher in subjects showing hepatic steatosis. Surprisingly, subjects carrying the G allele showed comparable hepatic glucose production rates, peripheral glucose disposal rate, and glycerol turnover as the CC homozygotes. Carriers of the G allele showed smaller adipocytes than those with CC genotype (P = 0.005). Although the expression of PNPLA3, PNPLA2, PPARγ2(peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma 2), SREBP1c(sterol regulatory element binding protein 1c), and ACACA(acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase) was not different between genotypes, carriers of the G allele showed lower leptin (LEP)(P = 0.03) and sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) expression (P = 0.04).
A common variant of the PNPLA3 gene confers susceptibility to hepatic steatosis in obese youths without increasing the level of hepatic and peripheral insulin resistance. The rs738409 PNPLA3 G allele is associated with morphological changes in adipocyte cell size.
PMCID: PMC3221304  PMID: 20803499
11.  PNPLA3 I148M (rs738409) genetic variant and age at onset of at-risk alcohol consumption are independent risk factors for alcoholic cirrhosis 
Liver International  2013;34(4):514-520.
Background & Aims
Environmental and genetic factors contribute to alcoholic cirrhosis onset. In particular, age at exposure to liver stressors has been shown to be important in progression to fibrosis in hepatitis C individuals. However, no definite data on the role of age at onset of at-risk alcohol consumption are available. Moreover, patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing protein 3 (PNPLA3) I148M (rs738409) variant has been associated with alcoholic cirrhosis, but only in cross-sectional studies. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of age at onset of at-risk alcohol consumption and PNPLA3 I148M variant on alcoholic cirrhosis incidence.
A total of 384 at-risk alcohol drinkers were retrospectively examined. The association among age at onset of at-risk alcohol consumption, PNPLA3 I148M variant and cirrhosis incidence was tested.
A higher incidence of alcoholic cirrhosis was observed in individuals with an older (≥24 years) compared with a younger (<24) age at onset of at-risk alcohol consumption (P-value < 0.001). Moreover, PNPLA3 148M allele carriers showed an increased incidence of cirrhosis (P-value < 0.001). Both age at onset of at-risk alcohol consumption and PNPLA3 148M allele were independent risk factors for developing cirrhosis (H.R. (95% C.I.): 2.76 (2.18–3.50), P-value < 0.001; 1.53(1.07–2.19), P-value = 0.021 respectively). The 148M allele was associated with a two-fold increased risk of cirrhosis in individuals with a younger compared with an older age at onset of at-risk alcohol consumption (H.R. (95% C.I.): 3.03(1.53–6.00) vs. 1.61(1.09–2.38).
Age at onset of at-risk alcohol consumption and PNPLA3 I148M genetic variant are independently associated with alcoholic cirrhosis incidence.
PMCID: PMC4265268  PMID: 24102786
Age at onset; alcohol intake; alcoholic liver disease; genetics; incidence; patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing protein 3; polymorphism
12.  Genome-Wide Association Analysis Identifies Variants Associated with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease That Have Distinct Effects on Metabolic Traits 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(3):e1001324.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) clusters in families, but the only known common genetic variants influencing risk are near PNPLA3. We sought to identify additional genetic variants influencing NAFLD using genome-wide association (GWA) analysis of computed tomography (CT) measured hepatic steatosis, a non-invasive measure of NAFLD, in large population based samples. Using variance components methods, we show that CT hepatic steatosis is heritable (∼26%–27%) in family-based Amish, Family Heart, and Framingham Heart Studies (n = 880 to 3,070). By carrying out a fixed-effects meta-analysis of genome-wide association (GWA) results between CT hepatic steatosis and ∼2.4 million imputed or genotyped SNPs in 7,176 individuals from the Old Order Amish, Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik study (AGES), Family Heart, and Framingham Heart Studies, we identify variants associated at genome-wide significant levels (p<5×10−8) in or near PNPLA3, NCAN, and PPP1R3B. We genotype these and 42 other top CT hepatic steatosis-associated SNPs in 592 subjects with biopsy-proven NAFLD from the NASH Clinical Research Network (NASH CRN). In comparisons with 1,405 healthy controls from the Myocardial Genetics Consortium (MIGen), we observe significant associations with histologic NAFLD at variants in or near NCAN, GCKR, LYPLAL1, and PNPLA3, but not PPP1R3B. Variants at these five loci exhibit distinct patterns of association with serum lipids, as well as glycemic and anthropometric traits. We identify common genetic variants influencing CT–assessed steatosis and risk of NAFLD. Hepatic steatosis associated variants are not uniformly associated with NASH/fibrosis or result in abnormalities in serum lipids or glycemic and anthropometric traits, suggesting genetic heterogeneity in the pathways influencing these traits.
Author Summary
NAFLD is a spectrum of disease that ranges from steatosis to steatohepatitis (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH: inflammation around the fat) to fibrosis/cirrhosis. Hepatic steatosis can be measured non-invasively using computed tomography (CT) whereas NASH/fibrosis is assessed histologically. The genetic underpinnings of NAFLD remain to be determined. Here we estimate that 26%–27% of the variation in CT measured hepatic steatosis is heritable or genetic. We identify three variants near PNPLAL3, NCAN, and PPP1R3B that associate with CT hepatic steatosis and show that variants in or near NCAN, GCKR, LYPLAL1, and PNPLA3, but not PPP1R3B, associate with histologic lobular inflammation/fibrosis. Variants in or near NCAN, GCKR, and PPP1R3B associate with altered serum lipid levels, whereas those in or near LYPLAL1 and PNPLA3 do not. Variants near GCKR and PPP1R3B also affect glycemic traits. Thus, we show that NAFLD is genetically influenced and expand the number of common genetic variants that associate with this trait. Our findings suggest that development of hepatic steatosis, NASH/fibrosis, or abnormalities in metabolic traits are probably influenced by different metabolic pathways that may represent distinct therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC3053321  PMID: 21423719
13.  Pnpla3/adiponutrin deficiency in mice is not associated with fatty liver disease 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2010;52(3):1134-1142.
PNPLA3 (Adiponutrin), a novel patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing enzyme, is expressed at high level in fat, but also in other tissues including liver. Polymorphisms in PNPLA3 have been linked to obesity and insulin sensitivity. Notably, a nonsynonymous variant rs738409(G) allele of the PNPLA3 gene was found to be strongly associated with both non-alcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver disease. We have generated Pnpla3−/− mice by gene targeting. Loss of Pnpla3 has no effect on body weight or composition, adipose mass or development, whether the mice were fed regular chow or high-fat diet or bred into Lepob/ob background. Plasma and liver triglyceride content and plasma aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase levels were not different between Pnpla3+/+ and Pnpla3−/− mice while they were on regular chow, fed three different fatty liver-inducing diets, or after they were bred into Lepob/ob background. Hepatic Pnpla5 mRNA levels were similar in wild-type and Pnpla3−/− mice, though adipose Pnpla5 mRNA level was increased in Pnpla3−/− mice. A high sucrose lipogenic diet stimulated hepatic Pnpla3 and Pnpla5 mRNA levels to a similar degree, but it did not affect adipose or liver triglyceride lipase (ATGL, aka Pnpla2) mRNA in Pnpla3+/+ and Pnpla3−/− mice. Finally, Pnpla3+/+ and Pnpla3−/− mice displayed similar glucose tolerance and insulin tolerance tests while on regular chow or three different fatty liver-inducing diets. Conclusion: Loss of Pnpla3 does not cause fatty liver, liver enzyme elevation, or insulin resistance in mice.
PMCID: PMC2932863  PMID: 20648554
Pnpla3 deficiency; fatty liver disease; insulin resistance
14.  Impact of IL28B-Related Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms on Liver Histopathology in Chronic Hepatitis C Genotype 2 and 3 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29370.
Background and Aims
Recently, several genome-wide association studies have revealed that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in proximity to IL28B predict spontaneous clearance of HCV infection as well as outcome following peginterferon and ribavirin therapy among HCV genotype 1 infected patients. The present study aimed to evaluate the impact of IL28B SNP variability on liver histology in the context of a phase III treatment trial (NORDynamIC) for treatment-naïve patients with chronic HCV genotype 2 or 3 infection, where pretreatment liver biopsies were mandatory.
Three hundred and thirty-nine Caucasian patients had samples available for IL28B genotyping (rs12979860) of whom 314 had pretreatment liver biopsies that were evaluated using the Ishak protocol, allowing for detailed grading and staging of liver histopathology.
IL28B CCrs12979860 genotype in HCV genotype 3 infected patients was associated with higher ALT levels (p<0.0001), higher AST to platelet ratio index (APRI; p = 0.001), and higher baseline viral load (p<0.0001) as compared to patients with the CT or TT genotypes. Additionally the CCrs12979860 genotype entailed more pronounced portal inflammation (p = 0.02) and steatosis (p = 0.03). None of these associations were noted among HCV genotype 2 infected patients.
This study shows that the CCrs12979860 SNP is associated with more pronounced liver histopathology in patients chronically infected with HCV genotype 3, which may be secondary to higher viral load. The finding that IL28B variability did not impact on liver pathology or viral load among genotype 2 infected patients implies that IL28B may differentially regulate the course of genotype 2 and 3 infection.
PMCID: PMC3258245  PMID: 22253715
15.  Genetic variation I148M in patatin-like phospholipase 3 gene and risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease among Filipinos 
Genome-wide association studies have shown that a non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism characterized by a C-to-G change encoding an isoleucine-to-methionine substitution at amino acid position 148 in the human patatin-like phospholipase 3 (PNPLA3) gene was found to be associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and advanced liver damage. A hospital-based study was conducted to determine the distribution of PNPLA3 genotypes among patients clinically diagnosed and histologically confirmed with NAFLD and among normal controls. We also compared the allelic frequencies of PNPLA3 with different ethnic populations. More importantly, we evaluated the association between PNPLA3 genetic variation and risk of developing NAFLD among Filipinos. Real-time PCR was performed using the Taqman SNP genotyping assay for rs738409. Nucleotide sequencing was performed to confirm the PNPLA3 genotypes. Allelic frequencies among normal controls were 0.83 and 0.17 for the PNPLA3 C and PNPLA3 G alleles, respectively. Calculated frequencies in Hardy Weinberg Equilibrium were 72% for PNPLA3 C/C, 22% for PNPLA3 C/G, and 6% for PNPLA3 G/G genotype. There is a significant difference in the distribution of PNPLA3 genotypes between normal controls and NAFLD patients (p = 0.0172). However, there was no significant association found between PNPLA3 genotypes and risk of developing NAFLD after controlling for possible confounding effects (p = 0.0574). Allelic frequencies of PNPLA3 among Filipinos were statistically different from Hispanics, Japanese, and Han Chinese. In conclusion, genetic variation in PNPLA3 rs738409 C>G seems to be associated with NAFLD among Filipinos. Further studies are needed to replicate our observations in an independent larger population.
PMCID: PMC4161557  PMID: 25232397
Genetic variation; I148M; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; patatin-like phospholipase 3 gene; rs738409 C>G; Filipino
16.  Steatosis Is an Independent Predictor of Relapse Following Rapid Virologic Response in Patients With HCV Genotype 3 
Background & Aims
It is recommended that patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 3 infections receive 24 weeks of treatment. A rapid virologic response (RVR, at week 4) predicts a sustained virologic response (SVR), although not all patients with an RVR achieve an SVR. We explored the relationships among hepatic steatosis, level of HCV RNA, relapse, and RVR in a phase 3 randomized controlled trial of 932 patients infected with HCV genotype 2 (n = 427) or 3 (n = 505) who received 24 weeks of therapy with interferon-α.
In patients with an RVR (HCV RNA <43 IU/mL), the presence of an SVR was modeled using multivariate logistic regression as a function of age, sex, weight, body-mass index, insulin resistance, steatosis, and levels of γ-glutamyl transpeptidase, alanine transaminase, liver fibrosis, and baseline HCV RNA.
RVR, SVR, and relapse rates among patients with HCV genotype 3 were 79.6%, 79.2%, and 15.6%, respectively; corresponding rates among patients with HCV genotype 2 were 86.7%, 84.3%, and 10.1%. An RVR had high predictive value for an SVR in patients with HCV genotypes 2 (88.9%) and 3 (88.1%). The strongest independent predictors of relapse in patients with genotype 3 and an RVR were steatosis (odds ratio 3.0; P=.003) and HCV RNA ≥400,000 IU/mL (2.5; P=.04). Relapse rates in patients with steatosis were 17.4% and 20.9% for low and high baseline levels of HCV RNA, respectively; corresponding rates in those without steatosis were 2.5% and 8.8%.
Steatosis was associated with significantly higher rates of relapse, irrespective of viral load, in patients infected with HCV genotype 3 who had an RVR. Further studies are needed to determine if longer treatment durations are effective in patients with an RVR and these risk factors.
PMCID: PMC3155986  PMID: 21640198
Liver disease; response to therapy; prognosis; recurrence
17.  The Association of PNPLA3 Variants with Liver Enzymes in Childhood Obesity Is Driven by the Interaction with Abdominal Fat 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27933.
Background and Aims
A polymorphism in adiponutrin/patatin-like phospholipase-3 gene (PNPLA3), rs738409 C->G, encoding for the I148M variant, is the strongest genetic determinant of liver fat and ALT levels in adulthood and childhood obesity. Aims of this study were i) to analyse in a large group of obese children the role of the interaction of not-genetic factors such as BMI, waist circumference (W/Hr) and insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) in exposing the association between the I148M polymorphism and ALT levels and ii) to stratify the individual risk of these children to have liver injury on the basis of this gene-environment interaction.
1048 Italian obese children were investigated. Anthropometric, clinical and metabolic data were collected and the PNPLA3 I148M variant genotyped.
Children carrying the 148M allele showed higher ALT and AST levels (p = 0.000006 and p = 0.0002, respectively). Relationships between BMI-SDS, HOMA-IR and W/Hr with ALT were analysed in function of the different PNPLA3 genotypes. Children 148M homozygous showed a stronger correlation between ALT and W/Hr than those carrying the other genotypes (p: 0.0045) and, therefore, 148M homozygotes with high extent of abdominal fat (W/Hr above 0.62) had the highest OR (4.9, 95% C. I. 3.2–7.8, p = 0.00001) to develop pathologic ALT.
We have i) showed for the first time that the magnitude of the association of PNPLA3 with liver enzymes is driven by the size of abdominal fat and ii) stratified the individual risk to develop liver damage on the basis of the interaction between the PNPLA3 genotype and abdominal fat.
PMCID: PMC3225386  PMID: 22140488
18.  Correlation Between Patatin-Like Phospholipase Domain-Containing Protein 3 Gene Polymorphisms and Liver Cirrhosis in a Chinese Han Population With Chronic Hepatitis B 
Hepatitis Monthly  2014;14(8):e18943.
A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) of patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 (PNPLA3) genes (rs738409) is associated with the severity of fibrosis and cirrhosis in patients with fatty liver disease. However, in a small group of Italian patients, there was no significant correlation between the rs738409 SNP and hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection-associated liver cirrhosis.
This study aimed to investigate whether PNPLA3 polymorphisms are a risk factor for liver cirrhosis in a Chinese Han population with chronic hepatitis B (CHB).
Patients and Methods:
The study population consisted of 344 Chinese Han patients with CHB, among which 203 presented with liver cirrhosis (LC group) and 141 had no sign of liver cirrhosis (CHB group). TaqMan genotyping assay was used to investigate the association of two PNPLA3 SNPs (rs738409 and rs2281135) with the risk of liver cirrhosis.
The allele and genotype distributions of PNPLA3 rs738409 and rs2281135 were not significantly different between the CHB and LC groups. After segregation on the basis of sex, no significant correlation between PNPLA3 (rs738409 and rs2281135) genotypes/alleles and liver cirrhosis was detected. Moreover, none of the haplotypes in PNPLA3 (rs738409 and rs2281135) was found to be statistically different between the two groups.
Our results showed no association between PNPLA3 polymorphisms (rs738409 and rs2281135) and the susceptibility to HBV-related liver cirrhosis in a Chinese Han population.
PMCID: PMC4199146  PMID: 25337145
Hepatitis B, Chronic; Liver Cirrhosis; Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms
19.  Impact of IL28B-Related Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms on Liver Transient Elastography in Chronic Hepatitis C Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80172.
Background and Aims
Recently, several genome-wide association studies have revealed that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in proximity to IL28B predict spontaneous clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection as well as outcome following pegylated interferon and ribavirin therapy among genotype 1 infected patients. Additionally the presence of the otherwise favorable IL28B genetic variants in the context of HCV genotype 3 infection reportedly entail more pronounced liver fibrosis and steatosis. The present study aimed to evaluate the impact of IL28B SNP variability on liver stiffness as accessed by transient elastography.
Seven hundred and seventy-one Swedish HCV infected patients sequentially undergoing liver stiffness measurement by means of Fibroscan® in the context of a real-life trial had samples available for IL28B genotyping (rs12979860) and HCV genotyping.
CCrs12979860 was more common among HCV genotype 2 or 3 infected treatment-naïve patients than among those infected with genotype 1 (P<0.0001). Additionally CCrs12979860 among HCV genotype 3 infected patients was associated with higher liver stiffness values (P = 0.004), and higher AST to platelet ratio index (APRI; p = 0.02) as compared to carriers of the T allele. Among HCV genotype 1 infected patients, CCrs12979860 was significantly associated with higher viral load (P = 0.001), with a similar non-significant trend noted among HCV genotype 3 infected patients.
This study confirms previous reports that the CCrs12979860 SNP is associated with more pronounced liver pathology in patients chronically infected with HCV genotype 3 as compared to genotype 1, suggesting that IL28B genetic variants differently regulates the course of HCV infection across HCV genotypes.
PMCID: PMC3828208  PMID: 24244641
20.  Host Genetics Predict Clinical Deterioration in HCV-Related Cirrhosis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114747.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the epidermal growth factor (EGF, rs4444903), patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing protein 3 (PNPLA3, rs738409) genes, and near the interleukin-28B (IL28B, rs12979860) gene are linked to treatment response, fibrosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in chronic hepatitis C. Whether these SNPs independently or in combination predict clinical deterioration in hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related cirrhosis is unknown. We genotyped SNPs in EGF, PNPLA3, and IL28B from liver tissue from 169 patients with biopsy-proven HCV cirrhosis. We estimated risk of clinical deterioration, defined as development of ascites, encephalopathy, variceal hemorrhage, HCC, or liver-related death using Cox proportional hazards modeling. During a median follow-up of 6.6 years, 66 of 169 patients experienced clinical deterioration. EGF non-AA, PNPLA3 non-CC, and IL28B non-CC genotypes were each associated with increased risk of clinical deterioration in age, sex, and race-adjusted analysis. Only EGF non-AA genotype was independently associated with increased risk of clinical deterioration (hazard ratio [HR] 2.87; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.31–6.25) after additionally adjusting for bilirubin, albumin, and platelets. Compared to subjects who had 0–1 unfavorable genotypes, the HR for clinical deterioration was 1.79 (95%CI 0.96–3.35) for 2 unfavorable genotypes and 4.03 (95%CI 2.13–7.62) for unfavorable genotypes for all three loci (Ptrend<0.0001). In conclusion, among HCV cirrhotics, EGF non-AA genotype is independently associated with increased risk for clinical deterioration. Specific PNPLA3 and IL28B genotypes also appear to be associated with clinical deterioration. These SNPs have potential to identify patients with HCV-related cirrhosis who require more intensive monitoring for decompensation or future therapies preventing disease progression.
PMCID: PMC4264769  PMID: 25504078
21.  Chronic overexpression of PNPLA3I148M in mouse liver causes hepatic steatosis  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(11):4130-4144.
A genetic variant in PNPLA3 (PNPLA3I148M), a triacylglycerol (TAG) hydrolase, is a major risk factor for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); however, the mechanism underlying this association is not known. To develop an animal model of PNPLA3-induced fatty liver disease, we generated transgenic mice that overexpress similar amounts of wild-type PNPLA3 (PNPLA3WT) or mutant PNPLA3 (PNPLA3I148M) either in liver or adipose tissue. Overexpression of the transgenes in adipose tissue did not affect liver fat content. Expression of PNPLA3I148M, but not PNPLA3WT, in liver recapitulated the fatty liver phenotype as well as other metabolic features associated with this allele in humans. Metabolic studies provided evidence for 3 distinct alterations in hepatic TAG metabolism in PNPLA3I148M transgenic mice: increased formation of fatty acids and TAG, impaired hydrolysis of TAG, and relative depletion of TAG long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. These findings suggest that PNPLA3 plays a role in remodeling TAG in lipid droplets, as they accumulate in response to food intake, and that the increase in hepatic TAG levels associated with the I148M substitution results from multiple changes in hepatic TAG metabolism. The development of an animal model that recapitulates the metabolic phenotype of the allele in humans provides a new platform in which to elucidate the role of PNLPA3I148M in NAFLD.
PMCID: PMC3484461  PMID: 23023705
22.  A Novel Diagnostic Target in the Hepatitis C Virus Genome 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(2):e1000031.
Detection and quantification of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA is integral to diagnostic and therapeutic regimens. All molecular assays target the viral 5′-noncoding region (5′-NCR), and all show genotype-dependent variation of sensitivities and viral load results. Non-western HCV genotypes have been under-represented in evaluation studies. An alternative diagnostic target region within the HCV genome could facilitate a new generation of assays.
Methods and Findings
In this study we determined by de novo sequencing that the 3′-X-tail element, characterized significantly later than the rest of the genome, is highly conserved across genotypes. To prove its clinical utility as a molecular diagnostic target, a prototype qualitative and quantitative test was developed and evaluated multicentrically on a large and complete panel of 725 clinical plasma samples, covering HCV genotypes 1–6, from four continents (Germany, UK, Brazil, South Africa, Singapore). To our knowledge, this is the most diversified and comprehensive panel of clinical and genotype specimens used in HCV nucleic acid testing (NAT) validation to date. The lower limit of detection (LOD) was 18.4 IU/ml (95% confidence interval, 15.3–24.1 IU/ml), suggesting applicability in donor blood screening. The upper LOD exceeded 10−9 IU/ml, facilitating viral load monitoring within a wide dynamic range. In 598 genotyped samples, quantified by Bayer VERSANT 3.0 branched DNA (bDNA), X-tail-based viral loads were highly concordant with bDNA for all genotypes. Correlation coefficients between bDNA and X-tail NAT, for genotypes 1–6, were: 0.92, 0.85, 0.95, 0.91, 0.95, and 0.96, respectively; X-tail-based viral loads deviated by more than 0.5 log10 from 5′-NCR-based viral loads in only 12% of samples (maximum deviation, 0.85 log10). The successful introduction of X-tail NAT in a Brazilian laboratory confirmed the practical stability and robustness of the X-tail-based protocol. The assay was implemented at low reaction costs (US$8.70 per sample), short turnover times (2.5 h for up to 96 samples), and without technical difficulties.
This study indicates a way to fundamentally improve HCV viral load monitoring and infection screening. Our prototype assay can serve as a template for a new generation of viral load assays. Additionally, to our knowledge this study provides the first open protocol to permit industry-grade HCV detection and quantification in resource-limited settings.
Christian Drosten and colleagues develop, validate, and make openly available a prototype hepatitis C virus assay based on the conserved 3' X-tail element, with potential for clinical use in developing countries.
Editors' Summary
About 3% of the world's population (170 million people) harbor long-term (chronic) infections with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and about 3–4 million people are newly infected with this virus every year. HCV—a leading cause of chronic hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)—is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person. Globally, the main routes of transmission are the use of unscreened blood for transfusions and the reuse of inadequately sterilized medical instruments, including needles. In affluent countries, where donated blood is routinely screened for the presence of HCV, most transmission is through needle sharing among drug users. The risk of sexual and mother-to-child transmission of HCV is low. Although HCV infection occasionally causes an acute (short-lived) illness characterized by tiredness and jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), most newly infected people progress to a symptom-free, chronic infection that can eventually cause liver cirrhosis (scarring) and liver cancer. HCV infections can be treated with a combination of two drugs called interferon and ribavirin, but these drugs are expensive and are ineffective in many patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
An effective way to limit the global spread of HCV might be to introduce routine screening of the blood that is used for transfusions in developing countries. In developed countries, HCV screening of blood donors use expensive, commercial “RT-PCR” assays to detect small amounts of HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA; HCV stores the information it needs to replicate itself—its genome—as a sequence of “ribonucleotides”). All the current HCV assays, which can also quantify the amount of viral RNA in the blood (the viral load) during treatment, detect a target sequence in the viral genome called the 5′-noncoding region (5′-NCR). However, there are several different HCV “genotypes” (strains). These genotypes vary in their geographical distribution and, even though the 5′-NCR sequence is very similar (highly conserved) in the common genotypes (HCV genotypes 1–6), the existing assays do not detect all the variants equally well. This shortcoming, together with their high cost, means that 5′-NCR RT-PCR assays are not ideal for use in many developing countries. In this study, the researchers identify an alternative diagnostic target sequence in the HCV genome—the 3′-X-tail element—and ask whether this sequence can be used to develop a new generation of tests for HCV infection that might be more appropriate for use in developing countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers determined the RNA sequence of the 3′-X-tail element in reference samples of the major HCV genotypes and showed that this region of the HCV genome is as highly conserved as the 5′-NCR. They then developed a prototype X-tail RT-PCR assay and tested its ability to detect small amounts of HCV and to measure viral load in genotype reference samples and in a large panel of HCV-infected blood samples collected in Germany, the UK, Brazil, South Africa, and Singapore. The new assay detected low levels of HCV RNA in all of the genotype reference samples and was also able to quantify high RNA concentrations. The viral load estimates it provided for the clinical samples agreed well with those obtained using a commercial assay irrespective of the sample's HCV genotype. Finally, the X-tail RT-PCR assay gave similar results to a standard assay at a fraction of the cost when used to measure viral loads in a Brazilian laboratory in an independent group of 127 patient samples collected in Brazil.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the HCV 3′-X-tail element could provide an alternative target for screening blood samples for HCV infection and for monitoring viral loads during treatment, irrespective of HCV genotype. In addition, they suggest that X-tail RT-PCR assays may be stable and robust enough for use in laboratories in emerging countries. Overall, these findings should stimulate the development of a new generation of clinical HCV assays that, because the protocol used in the X-tail assay is freely available, could improve blood safety in developing countries by providing a cheap and effective alternative to existing proprietary HCV assays.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization has a fact sheet about hepatitis C (in English and French)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on hepatitis C for the public and for health professionals (information is also available in Spanish)
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides basic information on hepatitis C (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on hepatitis C; MedlinePlus also provides links to further information on hepatitis C (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2637920  PMID: 19209955
23.  IL28B, HLA-C, and KIR Variants Additively Predict Response to Therapy in Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection in a European Cohort: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(9):e1001092.
Vijayaprakash Suppiah and colleagues show that genotyping hepatitis C patients for the IL28B, HLA-C, and KIR genes improves the ability to predict whether or not patients will respond to antiviral treatment.
To date, drug response genes have not proved as useful in clinical practice as was anticipated at the start of the genomic era. An exception is in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 infection with pegylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin (PegIFN/R). Viral clearance is achieved in 40%–50% of patients. Interleukin 28B (IL28B) genotype predicts treatment-induced and spontaneous clearance. To improve the predictive value of this genotype, we studied the combined effect of variants of IL28B with human leukocyte antigen C (HLA-C), and its ligands the killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR), which have previously been implicated in HCV viral control.
Methods and Findings
We genotyped chronic hepatitis C (CHC) genotype 1 patients with PegIFN/R treatment-induced clearance (n = 417) and treatment failure (n = 493), and 234 individuals with spontaneous clearance, for HLA-C C1 versus C2, presence of inhibitory and activating KIR genes, and two IL28B SNPs, rs8099917 and rs12979860. All individuals were Europeans or of European descent. IL28B SNP rs8099917 “G” was associated with absence of treatment-induced clearance (odds ratio [OR] 2.19, p = 1.27×10−8, 1.67–2.88) and absence of spontaneous clearance (OR 3.83, p = 1.71×10−14, 2.67–5.48) of HCV, as was rs12979860, with slightly lower ORs. The HLA-C C2C2 genotype was also over-represented in patients who failed treatment (OR 1.52, p = 0.024, 1.05–2.20), but was not associated with spontaneous clearance. Prediction of treatment failure improved from 66% with IL28B to 80% using both genes in this cohort (OR 3.78, p = 8.83×10−6, 2.03–7.04). There was evidence that KIR2DL3 and KIR2DS2 carriage also altered HCV treatment response in combination with HLA-C and IL28B.
Genotyping for IL28B, HLA-C, and KIR genes improves prediction of HCV treatment response. These findings support a role for natural killer (NK) cell activation in PegIFN/R treatment-induced clearance, partially mediated by IL28B.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
About 170 million people harbor long-term (chronic) infections with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and 3–4 million people are newly infected with the virus every year. HCV—a leading cause of chronic hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)—is spread though contact with infected blood. Transmission can occur during medical procedures (for example, transfusions with unscreened blood or reuse of inadequately sterilized medical instruments) but in developed countries, where donated blood is routinely screened for HCV, the most common transmission route is needle-sharing among intravenous drug users. HCV infection can cause a short-lived illness characterized by tiredness and jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) but 70%–80% of newly infected people progress to a symptom-free, chronic infection that can eventually cause liver cirrhosis (scarring) and liver cancer. HCV infections can be treated with a combination of two drugs—pegylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin (PegIFN/R). However, PegIFN/R is expensive, causes unpleasant side-effects, and is ineffective in about half of people infected with HCV genotype 1, the commonest HCV strain.
Why Was This Study Done?
It would be extremely helpful to be able to identify which patients will respond to PegIFN/R before starting treatment. An individual's genetic make-up plays a key role in the safety and effectiveness of drugs. Thus, pharmacogenomics—the study of how genetic variants affects the body's response to drugs—has the potential to alter the clinical management of many diseases by allowing clinicians to provide individually tailored drug treatments. In 2009, scientists reported that certain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, a type of genetic variant) lying near the IL28B gene (which encodes an immune system protein made in response to viral infections) strongly influence treatment outcomes and spontaneous clearance in HCV-infected people. This discovery is now being used to predict treatment responses to PegIFN/R in clinical practice but genotyping (analysis of variants of) IL28B only correctly predicts treatment failure two-thirds of the time. Here, the researchers investigate whether genotyping two additional regions of the genome—the HLA-C and KIR gene loci—can improve the predictive value of IL28B genotyping. Human leukocyte antigen C (HLA-C) and the killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) are interacting proteins that have been implicated in HCV viral control.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers genotyped 417 patients chronically infected with HCV genotype 1 whose infection had been cleared by PegIFN/R treatment, 493 patients whose infection had not responded to treatment, and 234 patients whose infection had cleared spontaneously for two HLA-C variants (C1 and C2), the presence of several KIR genes (individuals carry different combinations of KIR genes), and two IL28B SNPs (rs8099917 and rs12979860). Carriage of “variants” of either IL28B SNP was associated with absence of treatment-induced clearance and absence of spontaneous clearance. That is, these variant SNPs were found more often in patients who did not respond to treatment than in those who did respond, and more often in patients who did not have spontaneous clearance of their infection than those who did. The HLA-C C2C2 genotype (there are two copies of most genes in the genome) was also more common in patients who failed treatment than in those who responded but was not associated with spontaneous clearance. The rate of correct prediction of treatment failure increased from 66% with IL28B genotyping alone to 80% with combined IL28B and HLA-C genotyping. Finally, carriage of specific KIR genes in combination with specific HLA-C and IL28B variants was also associated with an altered HCV treatment response.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the addition of HCL-C and KIR genotyping to IL28B genotyping improved the prediction of HCV treatment response in the patients investigated in this study. Because all these patients were European or of European descent, these findings need confirming in people of other ethnic backgrounds. They also need confirming in other groups of Europeans before being used in a clinical setting. However, the discovery that the addition of HLA-C genotyping to IL28B genotyping raises the rate of correct prediction of PegIFN/R treatment failure to 80% is extremely promising and should improve the clinical management of patients infected with HCV genotype 1. In addition, these results provide new insights into how PegIFN/R clears HCV infections that may lead to improved therapies in the future.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides detailed information about hepatitis C (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on hepatitis C for the public and for health professionals (information is also available in Spanish)
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides basic information on hepatitis C (in English and Spanish)
The Hepatitis C Trust is a patient-led, patient-run UK charity that provides detailed information about hepatitis C and support for patients and their families; a selection of personal stories about patients' experiences with hepatitis C is available, including Phil's treatment story, which details the ups and downs of treatment with PegIFN/R
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on hepatitis C
The Human Genome Project provides information about medicine and the new genetics, including a primer on pharmacogenomics
PMCID: PMC3172251  PMID: 21931540
24.  Variant adiponutrin confers genetic protection against cholestatic itch 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:6374.
Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) mediates cholestatic pruritus. Recently the enzyme PNPLA3, expressed in liver and skin, was demonstrated to metabolise LPA. Here we assess the association of the PNPLA3 variant p.Ile148Met, known to be associated with (non-)alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in genome-wide association studies, with cholestatic itch in 187 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) and 250 PBC-free controls as well as 201 women with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) and 198 female controls without a history of ICP. Our hypothesis was that the intensity of cholestatic itch differs in carriers of distinct PNPLA3 p.Ile148Met genotypes. Patients with PBC carrying the allele p.148Met that confers an increased NAFLD risk reported less itching than carriers of the p.148Ile allele (ANOVA P = 0.048). The PNPLA3 p.148Ile allele increased the odds of requiring plasmapheresis for refractory pruritus (OR = 3.94, 95% CI = 0.91–17.00, P = 0.048). In line with these findings, the PNPLA3 p.148Met allele was underrepresented in the ICP cohort (OR = 0.66, 95% CI = 0.47–0.92, P = 0.013). Notwithstanding the need for further replication of these findings, we conclude that the PNPLA3 allele p.148Met might confer protection against cholestatic pruritus, possibly due to increased LPA-acyltransferase activity in liver and/or skin.
PMCID: PMC4190538  PMID: 25297933
25.  Serum leptin and ghrelin in chronic hepatitis C patients with steatosis 
AIM: To determine the associations between leptin and ghrelin concentrations and sustained virological response (SVR) in chronic hepatitis C patients with steatosis.
METHODS: We retrospectively assessed 56 patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype-1 and 40 with HCV genotype-3. Patients with decompensated cirrhosis, and those with other causes of chronic liver disease, were excluded. Serum HCV-RNA concentrations were measured before the initiation of treatment; at weeks 12 (for genotype 1 patients), 24 and 48 during treatment; and 24 wk after the end of treatment. Genotype was determined using INNO-LIPA HCV assays, and serum leptin and ghrelin concentrations were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Biopsy specimens were scored according to the Ishak system and steatosis was graded as mild, moderate, or severe, according to the Brunt classification.
RESULTS: Overall, SVR was positively related to the presence of genotype-3, to biopsy-determined lower histological stage of liver disease, and lower grade of steatosis. Patients ≥ 40 years old tended to be less responsive to therapy. In genotype-1 infected patients, SVR was associated with a lower grade of liver steatosis, milder fibrosis, and an absence of insulin resistance. Genotype-1 infected patients who did not achieve SVR had significantly higher leptin concentrations at baseline, with significant increases as the severity of steatosis worsened, whereas those who achieved SVR had higher ghrelin concentrations. In genotype-3 infected patients, SVR was associated only with fibrosis stage and lower homeostasis model assessment insulin resistance at baseline, but not with the degree of steatosis or leptin concentrations. Genotype-3 infected patients who achieved SVR showed significant decreases in ghrelin concentration at end of treatment. Baseline ghrelin concentrations were elevated in responders of both genotypes who had moderate and severe steatosis.
CONCLUSION: Increased serum leptin before treatment may predict non-SVR, especially in HCV genotype-1 infected patients, whereas increased ghrelin may predict SVR in genotype-1.
PMCID: PMC3235593  PMID: 22171144
Hepatitis C virus; Steatosis; Leptin; Ghrelin; Sustained virological response

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