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.
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.