Jordan University of Science and Technology

Hepatitis C Virus Infection of Cultured Human Hepatoma Cells Causes Apoptosis and Pyroptosis in Both Infected and Bystander Cells.

Authors:  Kofahi HM, Taylor NG, Hirasawa K, Grant MD, Russell RS

Individuals infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) are at high risk of developing progressive liver disease, including cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). How HCV infection causes liver destruction has been of significant interest for many years, and apoptosis has been proposed as one operative mechanism. In this study, we employed a tissue culture-adapted strain of HCV (JFH1T) to test effects of HCV infection on induction of programmed cell death (PCD) in Huh-7.5 cells. We found that HCV infection reduced the proliferation rate and induced caspase-3-mediated apoptosis in the infected cell population. However, in addition to apoptosis, we also observed infected cells undergoing caspase-1-mediated pyroptosis, which was induced by NLRP3 inflammasome activation. By co-culturing HCV-infected Huh-7.5 cells with an HCV-non-permissive cell line, we also demonstrated induction of both apoptosis and pyroptosis in uninfected cells. Bystander apoptosis, but not bystander pyroptosis, required cell-cell contact between infected and bystander cells. In summary, these findings provide new information on mechanisms of cell death in response to HCV infection. The observation that both apoptosis and pyroptosis can be induced in bystander cells extends our understanding of HCV-induced pathogenesis in the liver.