Ribavirin Improves Early Responses to Peginterferon Through Improved Interferon Signaling

Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1800, USA.
Gastroenterology (Impact Factor: 16.72). 07/2010; 139(1):154-62.e4. DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2010.03.037
Source: PubMed


The therapeutic mechanisms of ribavirin for hepatitis C are unclear. Microarray analyses have shown that ribavirin increases induction of interferon-stimulated genes. We evaluated viral kinetics, serum cytokine expression, and viral mutagenesis during early stages of peginterferon therapy with and without ribavirin.
Fifty patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection genotype 1 were randomly assigned to groups that were given peginterferon alpha-2a, with or without ribavirin, for 4 weeks; all patients then received an additional 44 weeks of combination therapy. First- and second-phase viral kinetics were evaluated. Serum levels of interferon-gamma-inducible protein-10 (IP10), monokine induced by interferon-gamma, and monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 were quantified as measures of the interferon-stimulated genes response. NS5A and NS5B were partially sequenced, and mutation rates were calculated.
The first-phase decrease in HCV RNA was similar between groups. Patients who received ribavirin had a more rapid second-phase decrease, compared with patients who did not receive ribavirin-particularly those with an adequate first-phase decrease (0.61 vs 0.35 log10 IU/mL/week; P = .018). At 12 hours, fold induction of serum IP10 was higher in patients given the combination therapy than those given peginterferon only (7.6- vs 3.8-fold; P = .01); however, the difference was greatest in patients with an adequate first-phase decrease in HCV RNA. IP10-induction correlated with first- and second-phase kinetics and with ribavirin serum concentrations on day 3. HCV mutation rates were similar between groups.
Ribavirin improves the kinetics of the early response to therapy in patients with an adequate initial response to peginterferon. Induction of interferon-stimulated cytokines correlates with viral kinetics following ribavirin therapy, suggesting that ribavirin promotes interferon signaling.

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    • "In HCV-infected patients, pre-treatment levels of IP10 have been shown to be inversely correlated with sustained virological response rates [49]. Our data are consistent with the notion that IP10 levels could be an indicator of the level and activity of intrinsic type I IFN pathways activated by viral infection. "
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    ABSTRACT: Alfa-interferons (IFNα2a, IFNα2b, 40KDa-PEGIFNα2a and 12KDa-PEGIFNα2b) are effective treatments for chronic hepatitis C infection. However, their usage has been associated with a variety of adverse events, including interstitial pneumonitis and pulmonary arterial hypertension. Although rare, these adverse events can be severe and potentially life-threatening, emphasizing the need for simple biomarkers of IFN-induced lung toxicity. Human lung microvascular endothelial cells (HLMVEC), human pulmonary artery smooth muscle (HPASM) cells and A549 cells were grown under standard conditions and plated into 96- or 6-well plates. Cells were stimulated with various concentrations of different IFNs in hydrocortisone-free medium. After 24 and 48 hours, IP10 and ET-1 were measured by ELISA in conditioned medium. In a second set of experiments, cells were pre-treated with tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) (10 ng/mL). IFNα2a, IFNα2b, 40KDa-PEGIFNα2a and 12KDa-PEGIFNα2b, but not IFNλ, induced IP10 (CXCL10) release and increased IP10 gene induction in HLMVEC. In addition, all four IFNα preparations induced IP10 release from HPASM cells and A549 cells pre-treated with TNFα. In each of these cell types, 40KDa-PEGIFNα2a was significantly less active than the native forms of IFNα2a, IFNα2b or 12KDa-PEGIFNα2b. Similarly, IFNα2a, IFNα2b and 12KDa-PEGIFNα2b, but not 40KDa-PEGIFNα2a, induced endothelin (ET)-1 release from HPASM cells. Consistent with other interstitial pulmonary diseases, both IP10 and ET1 may serve as markers to monitor IFN-induced lung toxicity in patients. In addition, both markers may also serve to help characterize the risk associated with IFNα preparations to induce lung toxicity.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · PLoS ONE
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    • "Of note, previous studies had been done in preparation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells and thus could not attribute changes in cytokine production to individually polarized T cells. In line with these previous reports our study in CD4+ T cell clones confirmed a conspicuous direct effect of ribavirin on TH1 cells, which may be linked to altered expression of interferon regulatory factors [27]–[29]. On the other hand, our data suggest that changes in TH2 functions are unlikely to contribute much to the overall anti-HCV effect of ribavirin, because we observed only slightly reduced production of IL-10 in our TH2 clones. "
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    ABSTRACT: Ribavirin improves outcomes of therapy in chronic hepatitis C but its mode of action has still remained unclear. Since ribavirin has been proposed to modulate the host's T cell responses, we studied its direct effects on CD4(+) T cell clones with diverse functional polarization which had been generated from patients with chronic hepatitis C. We analysed in vitro proliferation ([(3)H] thymidine uptake) and cytokine responses (IL-10, IFN-gamma) at varying concentrations of ribavirin (0-10 µg/ml) in 8, 9 and 7 CD4(+) TH1, TH2 and regulatory T cell (Treg) clones, respectively. In co-culture experiments, we further determined effects of ribarivin on inhibition of TH1 and TH2 effector cells by Treg clones. All clones had been generated from peripheral blood of patients with chronic hepatitis C in the presence of HCV core protein. Ribavirin enhanced proliferation of T effector cells and increased production of IFN-gamma in TH1 clones, but had only little effect on IL-10 secretion in TH2 clones. However, ribavirin markedly inhibited IL-10 release in Treg clones in a dose dependent fashion. These Treg clones suppressed proliferation of T effector clones by their IL-10 secretion, and in co-culture assays ribavirin reversed Treg-mediated suppression of T effector cells. Our in vitro data suggest that--in addition to its immunostimulatory effects on TH1 cells--ribavirin can inhibit functions of HCV-specific Tregs and thus reverses Treg-mediated suppression of T effector cells in chronic hepatitis C.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · PLoS ONE
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    • "Therefore, understanding how ribavirin suppresses HCV replication and how HCV could escape the effect of ribavirin could be of major importance. Proposed mechanisms of action of ribavirin against HCV include a direct effect against the HCV RNA dependent RNA polymerase (NS5b); induction of misincorporation of nucleotides leading to lethal mutagenesis; depletion of intracellular guanosine triphosphate pools; alteration in the cytokine balance from a Th2 profile to a Th1 profile; and up-regulation of genes involved in interferon signaling [1,2]. Clinical studies showed that the efficacy of a interferon-free combination therapy involving a protease and a polymerase inhibitor can be strongly enhanced by adding ribavirin, suggesting a direct anti-viral action of ribavirin in vivo [3,4]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Given the side effects associated with intravenous injections of interferon, an interferon-free regimen for the treatment of HCV infections is highly desirable. Recently published clinical studies show that interferon-free combination therapies containing ribavirin are efficacious, suggesting that an interferon-free therapy could be adopted in the near future. Therefore, understanding HCV resistance to ribavirin could be of major importance. In an approach to understand the effect of ribavirin on HCV replication and HCV resistance, we have selected a ribavirin resistant mutant of HCV in vitro. We serially passed the J6/JFH1 strain of HCV in Huh7D cells (a Huh7 cell derivative more permissive to HCV replication) in the presence of different concentrations of ribavirin. Virus replication was assessed by detection of HCV antigens by immunfluorscence of infected cells and titration of recovered virus present in the supernatant. cDNAs from virus RNA grown in 0 or 250 uM concentrations of ribavirin were synthesized by RT-PCR, and sequenced. A concentration of 125 uM of ribavirin did not have a dramatic effect on HCV replication, while 500 uM of ribavirin lead to viral extinction. Concentrations of 250 uM of ribavirin dramatically reduced virus replication which was sustained over six passages. At passage seven viral resurgence began and over two passages the level of virus reached that of the wild type virus grown without ribavirin. Virus recovered from these cultures were more resistant to 250 uM ribavirin than wild type virus, and showed no difference in replication relative to wild type virus when grown in the absence of ribavirin. The ribavirin resistant virus accumulated multiple synonymous and non-synonymous mutations that are presently being analyzed for their relationship to ribavirin resistance. It is possible to select a ribavirin resistant mutant of HCV that can replicate to levels similar to wild type virus grown without ribavirin. Analysis of the mutations responsible for the ribavirin resistance may aid in understanding the mechanism of action of ribavirin.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2011 · Virology Journal
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