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1.  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
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.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  PNPLA3 I148M polymorphism and progressive liver disease 
The 148 Isoleucine to Methionine protein variant (I148M) of patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 (PNPLA3), a protein is expressed in the liver and is involved in lipid metabolism, has recently been identified as a major determinant of liver fat content. Several studies confirmed that the I148M variant predisposes towards the full spectrum of liver damage associated with fatty liver: from simple steatosis to steatohepatitis and progressive fibrosis. Furthermore, the I148M variant represents a major determinant of progression of alcohol related steatohepatitis to cirrhosis, and to influence fibrogenesis and related clinical outcomes in chronic hepatitis C virus hepatitis, and possibly chronic hepatitis B virus hepatitis, hereditary hemochromatosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis. All in all, studies suggest that the I148M polymorphism may represent a general modifier of fibrogenesis in liver diseases. Remarkably, the effect of the I148M variant on fibrosis was independent of that on hepatic steatosis and inflammation, suggesting that it may affect both the quantity and quality of hepatic lipids and the biology of non-parenchymal liver cells besides hepatocytes, directly promoting fibrogenesis. Therefore, PNPLA3 is a key player in liver disease progression. Assessment of the I148M polymorphism will possibly inform clinical practice in the future, whereas the determination of the effect of the 148M variant will reveal mechanisms involved in hepatic fibrogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3819533  PMID: 24222941
Alcoholic liver disease; Chronic hepatitis C virus hepatitis; Fibrogenesis; Genetics; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liver disease; Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; Patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3; Single nucleotide polymorphism; Steatosis
9.  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
10.  A Common Variant of PNPLA3 (p.I148M) Is Not Associated with Alcoholic Chronic Pancreatitis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29433.
Chronic pancreatitis (CP) is an inflammatory disease that in some patients leads to exocrine and endocrine dysfunction. In industrialized countries the most common aetiology is chronic alcohol abuse. Descriptions of associated genetic alterations in alcoholic CP are rare. However, a common PNPLA3 variant (p.I148M) is associated with the development of alcoholic liver cirrhosis (ALC). Since, alcoholic CP and ALC share the same aetiology PNPLA3 variant (p.I148M) possibly influences the development of alcoholic CP.
Using melting curve analysis we genotyped the variant in 1510 patients with pancreatitis or liver disease (961 German and Dutch alcoholic CP patients, 414 German patients with idiopathic or hereditary CP, and 135 patients with ALC). In addition, we included in total 2781 healthy controls in the study.
The previously published overrepresentation of GG-genotype was replicated in our cohort of ALC (p-value <0.0001, OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.6–3.3). Distributions of genotype and allele frequencies of the p.I148M variant were comparable in patients with alcoholic CP, idiopathic and hereditary CP and in healthy controls.
The absence of an association of PNPLA3 p.I148M with alcoholic CP seems not to point to a common pathway in the development of alcoholic CP and alcoholic liver cirrhosis.
PMCID: PMC3262779  PMID: 22276112
11.  Hepatitis C virus infection and insulin resistance 
World Journal of Diabetes  2014;5(1):52-58.
Approximately 170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Chronic HCV infection is the leading cause for the development of liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and is the primary cause for liver transplantation in the western world. Insulin resistance is one of the pathological features in patients with HCV infection and often leads to development of type II diabetes. Insulin resistance plays an important role in the development of various complications associated with HCV infection. Recent evidence indicates that HCV associated insulin resistance may result in hepatic fibrosis, steatosis, HCC and resistance to anti-viral treatment. Thus, HCV associated insulin resistance is a therapeutic target at any stage of HCV infection. HCV modulates normal cellular gene expression and interferes with the insulin signaling pathway. Various mechanisms have been proposed in regard to HCV mediated insulin resistance, involving up regulation of inflammatory cytokines, like tumor necrosis factor-α, phosphorylation of insulin-receptor substrate-1, Akt, up-regulation of gluconeogenic genes like glucose 6 phosphatase, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase 2, and accumulation of lipid droplets. In this review, we summarize the available information on how HCV infection interferes with insulin signaling pathways resulting in insulin resistance.
PMCID: PMC3932427  PMID: 24567801
Hepatitis C virus; Insulin resistance; Insulin receptor substrate 1; Protein kinase B; mammalian target of rapamycin/S6K1; Suppressor of cytokine signaling 3; Glucose transporter-4; Lipid metabolism; Anti-viral therapy
12.  Expression and Characterization of a PNPLA3 Protein Isoform (I148M) Associated with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(43):37085-37093.
Background: A genetic variant of PNPLA3 (I148M), an enzyme of unknown function, confers susceptibility to fatty liver disease.
Results: Purified human PNPLA3 catalyzed hydrolysis of glycerolipids with a preference for oleoyl esters; the I148M substitution substantially decreased hydrolytic activity.
Conclusion: PNPLA3 catalyzes hydrolysis rather than synthesis of triacylglycerol.
Significance: PNPLA3-I148M impairs hydrolytic activity against multiple glycerolipids.
A genetic variant of PNPLA3 (patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3; PNPLA3-I148M), a serine protease of unknown function, is associated with accumulation of triacylglycerol (TAG) in the liver. To determine the biological substrates of PNPLA3 and the effect of the I148M substitution on enzymatic activity and substrate specificity, we purified and characterized recombinant human PNPLA3 and PNPLA3-I148M. Maximal hydrolytic activity of PNPLA3 was observed against the three major glycerolipids, TAG, diacylglycerol, and monoacylglycerol, with a strong preference for oleic acid as the acyl moiety. Substitution of methionine for isoleucine at position 148 markedly decreased the Vmax of the enzyme for glycerolipids but had only a modest effect on the Km. Purified PNPLA3 also catalyzed the hydrolysis of oleoyl-CoA, but the Vmax was 100-fold lower for oleoyl-CoA than for triolein. The thioesterase activity required the catalytic serine but was only modestly decreased by the I148M substitution. The enzyme had little or no hydrolytic activity against the other lipid substrates tested, including phospholipids, cholesteryl ester, and retinyl esters. Neither the wild-type nor mutant enzyme catalyzed transfer of oleic acid from oleoyl-CoA to glycerophosphate, lysophosphatidic acid, or diacylglycerol, suggesting that the enzyme does not promote de novo TAG synthesis. Taken together, our results are consistent with the notion that PNPLA3 plays a role in the hydrolysis of glycerolipids and that the I148M substitution causes a loss of function, although we cannot exclude the possibility that the enzyme has additional substrates or activities.
PMCID: PMC3199456  PMID: 21878620
Fatty Acid Metabolism; Glycerolipid; Hydrolases; Lipid Metabolism; Triglyceride; Adiponutrin; PNPLA3
13.  Impact of Obesity on the Bioavailability of Peginterferon-α2a and Ribavirin and Treatment Outcome for Chronic Hepatitis C Genotype 2 or 3 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37521.
Background and Aims
Having a body mass index above or equal to 30 kg/m2 in conjunction with chronic hepatitis C virus infection is associated with non-responsiveness to treatment with interferon and ribavirin, but details regarding the mechanisms whereby obesity reduces the efficacy of therapy remain unclear.
This study evaluated impact of obesity on outcome as well as interferon and ribavirin concentrations following standard-of-care fixed dosing with peginterferon-α2a 180 µg once weekly and ribavirin 800 mg daily among 303 HCV genotype 2/3-infected patients enrolled in the per-protocol analysis of a recently completed phase III trial (NORDynamIC).
Patients with BMI ≥30 kg/m2 showed poorer outcome following 24 weeks of therapy (SVR 62% vs. 89% for BMI ≥30 vs. <30; P = 0.006) along with significantly higher steatosis grade (P = 0.002), HOMA-IR (P<0.0001), triglyceride levels (P = 0.0002), and baseline viral load (P = 0.028). Obesity was also significantly associated with lower plasma interferon concentrations on days 3, 7, and 29 (P = 0.02, P = 0.0017, and P<0.0001, respectively) and lower plasma ribavirin concentrations day 29 (P = 0.025), and lower concentration of interferon in turn was associated with a poorer first phase reduction in HCV RNA (P<0.0001). In multivariate analysis, ribavirin concentrations week 12, interferon concentrations day 29, and baseline HCV RNA levels were independent predictors of achieving SVR among patients treated for 24 weeks (n = 140).
Reduced bioavailability of interferon and ribavirin along with higher baseline viral load are dominant risk factors for treatment failure in obese patients with chronic hepatitis C.
PMCID: PMC3360051  PMID: 22655053
14.  Hepatic steatosis: A benign disease or a silent killer 
Steatosis is a common feature of many liver diseases, namely non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, but the pathogenic mechanisms differ. Insulin resistance (IR), a key feature of metabolic syndrome, is crucial for NASH development, associated with many underlying genetically determined or acquired mitochondrial and metabolic defects and culminates to inflammation and progression to fibrosis. This may have potential implications for new drug therapy. In HCV-related disease, steatosis impacts both fibrosis progression and response to treatment. Steatosis in HCV-related disease relates to both viral factors (HCV genotype 3), and host factors (alcohol consumption, overweight, hyperlipidemia, diabetes). Among others, IR is a recognized factor. Hepatic steatosis is reported to be associated with disturbance in the signaling cascade of interferon and downregulation of its receptors. Thus, hepatic steatosis should not be considered a benign feature, but rather a silent killer.
PMCID: PMC2725370  PMID: 18636654
Metabolic steatosis; Hepatitis C virus steatosis; Insulin resistance; Fibrosis progression
15.  Identification of Combined Genetic Determinants of Liver Stiffness within the SREBP1c-PNPLA3 Pathway 
The common PNPLA3 (adiponutrin) variant, p.I148M, was identified as a genetic determinant of liver fibrosis. Since the expression of PNPLA3 is induced by sterol regulatory element binding protein 1c (SREBP1c), we investigate two common SREBP1c variants (rs2297508 and rs11868035) for their association with liver stiffness. In 899 individuals (aged 17–83 years, 547 males) with chronic liver diseases, hepatic fibrosis was non-invasively phenotyped by transient elastography (TE). The SREBP1c single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped using PCR-based assays with 5′-nuclease and fluorescence detection. The SREBP1c rs11868035 variant affected liver fibrosis significantly (p = 0.029): median TE levels were 7.2, 6.6 and 6.0 kPa in carriers of (TT) (n = 421), (CT) (n = 384) and (CC) (n = 87) genotypes, respectively. Overall, the SREBP1c SNP was associated with low TE levels (5.0–8.0 kPa). Carriers of both PNPLA3 and SREBP1c risk genotypes displayed significantly (p = 0.005) higher median liver stiffness, as compared to patients carrying none of these variants. The common SREBP1c variant may affect early stages of liver fibrosis. Our study supports a role of the SREBP1c-PNPLA3 pathway as a “disease module” that promotes hepatic fibrogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3821663  PMID: 24152445
adiponutrin; gene variant; hepatic fibrosis; sterol regulatory binding protein 1c
16.  Glucokinase Regulatory Protein Gene Polymorphism Affects Liver Fibrosis in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87523.
Background and Aims
Variant in glucokinase regulatory protein (GCKR), associated with lipid and glucose traits, has been suggested to affect fatty liver infiltration. We aimed to assess whether GCKR rs780094 C→T SNP influences the expression of steatosis, lobular inflammation and fibrosis in NAFLD patients, after correction for PNPLA3 genotype.
In 366 consecutive NAFLD patients (197 from Sicily, and 169 from center/northern Italy), we assessed anthropometric, biochemical and metabolic features; liver biopsy was scored according to Kleiner. PNPLA3 rs738409 C>G and GCKR rs780094 C>T single nucleotide polymorphisms were also assessed.
At multivariate logistic regression analysis in the entire NAFLD cohort, the presence of significant liver fibrosis (>F1) was independently linked to high HOMA (OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.01–1.23, p = 0.02), NAFLD activity score ≥5 (OR 4.09, 95% CI 2.45–6.81, p<0.001), and GCKR C>T SNP (OR 2.06, 95% CI 1.43–2.98, p<0.001). Similar results were observed considering separately the two different NAFLD cohorts. GCKR C>T SNP was also associated with higher serum triglycerides (ANOVA, p = 0.02) in the entire cohort.
In patients with NAFLD, GCKR rs780094 C>T is associated with the severity of liver fibrosis and with higher serum triglyceride levels.
PMCID: PMC3911959  PMID: 24498332
17.  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
18.  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
19.  PNPLA3, the triacylglycerol synthesis/hydrolysis/storage dilemma, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease 
Genome-wide and candidate gene association studies have identified several variants that predispose individuals to developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). However, the gene that has been consistently involved in the genetic susceptibility of NAFLD in humans is patatin-like phospholipase domain containing 3 (PNPLA3, also known as adiponutrin). A nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphism in PNPLA3 (rs738409 C/G, a coding variant that encodes an amino acid substitution  I148M) is significantly associated with fatty liver and histological disease severity, not only in adults but also in children. Nevertheless, how PNPLA3 influences the biology of fatty liver disease is still an open question. A recent article describes new aspects about PNPLA3 gene/protein function and suggests that the  I148M variant promotes hepatic lipid synthesis due to a gain of function. We revise here the published data about the role of the  I148M variant in lipogenesis/lipolysis, and suggest putative areas of future research. For instance we explored in silico whether the rs738409 C or G alleles have the ability to modify miRNA binding sites and miRNA gene regulation, and we found that prediction of PNPLA3 target miRNAs shows two miRNAs potentially interacting in the 3’UTR region (hsa-miR-769-3p and hsa-miR-516a-3p). In addition, interesting unanswered questions remain to be explored. For example, PNPLA3 lies between two CCCTC-binding factor-bound sites that could be tested for insulator activity, and an intronic histone 3 lysine 4 trimethylation peak predicts an enhancer element, corroborated by the DNase I hypersensitivity site peak. Finally, an interaction between PNPLA3 and glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase 2 is suggested by data miming.
PMCID: PMC3496879  PMID: 23155331
Adiponutrin; Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; miRNA; Glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase 2; Systems biology; Rs738409; Epigenetics
20.  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
21.  Potential treatment options and future research to increase hepatitis C virus treatment response rate 
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a liver-tropic blood-borne pathogen that affects more than 170 million people worldwide. Although acute infections are usually asymptomatic, up to 90% of HCV infections persist with the possibility of long-term consequences such as liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, steatosis, insulin resistance, or hepatocellular carcinoma. As such, HCV-associated liver disease is a major public health concern. Although the currently available standard of care therapy of pegylated interferon α plus ribavirin successfully treats infection in a subset of patients, the development of more effective, less toxic HCV antivirals is a health care imperative. This review not only discusses the limitations of the current HCV standard of care but also evaluates upcoming HCV treatment options and how current research elucidating the viral life cycle is facilitating the development of HCV-specific therapeutics that promise to greatly improve treatment response rates both before and after liver transplantation.
PMCID: PMC3039485  PMID: 21331152
interferon; STAT-C; combination therapy; personalized therapy; emerging drug targets; viral life cycle
22.  Potential treatment options and future research to increase hepatitis C virus treatment response rate 
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a liver-tropic blood-borne pathogen that affects more than 170 million people worldwide. Although acute infections are usually asymptomatic, up to 90% of HCV infections persist with the possibility of long-term consequences such as liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, steatosis, insulin resistance, or hepatocellular carcinoma. As such, HCV-associated liver disease is a major public health concern. Although the currently available standard of care therapy of pegylated interferon α plus ribavirin successfully treats infection in a subset of patients, the development of more effective, less toxic HCV antivirals is a health care imperative. This review not only discusses the limitations of the current HCV standard of care but also evaluates upcoming HCV treatment options and how current research elucidating the viral life cycle is facilitating the development of HCV-specific therapeutics that promise to greatly improve treatment response rates both before and after liver transplantation.
PMCID: PMC3039485  PMID: 21331152
interferon; STAT-C; combination therapy; personalized therapy; emerging drug targets; viral life cycle
23.  Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Infection and Hepatic Steatosis 
There are two discrete forms of steatosis that may be found in patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Metabolic steatosis can coexist with HCV, regardless of genotype, in patients with risk factors such as obesity, hyperlipidemia, and insulin resistance. The second form of hepatic steatosis in HCV patients is a result of the direct cytopathic effect of genotype 3 viral infections. There have been proposed mechanisms for this process but it remains elusive. Both categories of steatosis tend to hasten the progression of liver fibrosis and therefore prompt recognition and management should be initiated in patients with HCV and steatosis. The authors review the current understanding of the relationship between hepatitis C infection and hepatic steatosis and discuss future research directions.
PMCID: PMC1415843  PMID: 16614743
hepatitis C; obesity; metabolic syndrome; diabetes; steatosis; NAFLD; NASH
24.  Increased α-Fetoprotein Predicts Steatosis among Patients with Chronic Hepatitis C Genotype 4 
Background. The prognostic importance of α-fetoprotein (AFP) level elevation in patients with chronic hepatitis C and its clinical significance in steatosis associated with HCV infection remain to be determined. The present paper assessed clinical significance of elevated AFP in patients with CHC with and without steatosis. Methods. One hundred patients with CHC were divided into 50 patients with CHC and steatosis and 50 patients with CHC and no steatosis based on liver biopsy. Results. AFP was significantly increased in CHC with steatosis than patients without steatosis (P < 0.001). Highly significant positive correlation was found between serum AFP and necroinflammation as well as the severity of fibrosis/cirrhosis and negative significant correlation with albumin level in chronic HCV with steatosis (P < 0.001) but negative nonsignificant correlation with ALT and AST level (P ≤ 0.778 and 0.398), respectively. Highly significant increase was found in chronic hepatitis patients with steatosis than CHC without steatosis regarding necroinflammation as well as the severity of fibrosis/cirrhosis and AFP (P < 0.001). Conclusion. Patients with chronic HCV and steatosis have a higher AFP levels than those without steatosis. In chronic HCV with steatosis, elevated AFP levels correlated positively with HAI and negative significant correlation with albumin level.
PMCID: PMC3364564  PMID: 22675639
25.  A Sequence Variation (I148M) in PNPLA3 Associated with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Disrupts Triglyceride Hydrolysis* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;285(9):6706-6715.
Obesity and insulin resistance are associated with deposition of triglycerides in tissues other than adipose tissue. Previously, we showed that a missense mutation (I148M) in PNPLA3 (patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 protein) is associated with increased hepatic triglyceride content in humans. Here we examined the effect of the I148M substitution on the enzymatic activity and cellular location of PNPLA3. Structural modeling predicted that the substitution of methionine for isoleucine at residue 148 would restrict access of substrate to the catalytic serine at residue 47. In vitro assays using recombinant PNPLA3 partially purified from Sf9 cells confirmed that the wild type enzyme hydrolyzes emulsified triglyceride and that the I148M substitution abolishes this activity. Expression of PNPLA3-I148M, but not wild type PNPLA3, in cultured hepatocytes or in the livers of mice increased cellular triglyceride content. Cell fractionation studies revealed that ∼90% of wild type PNPLA3 partitioned between membranes and lipid droplets; substitution of isoleucine for methionine at position 148 did not alter the subcellular distribution of the protein. These data are consistent with PNPLA3-I148M promoting triglyceride accumulation by limiting triglyceride hydrolysis.
PMCID: PMC2825465  PMID: 20034933
Cell/Hepatocyte; Lipid; Lipid/Lipase; Lipid/Triacylglycerol; Membrane/Lipids; Metabolism/Fatty Acid; Metabolism/Lipid; Metabolism/Lipogenesis; Lipase; Lipolysis

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