Background & Aims: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is known to cause major alterations in the cross-talk between hepatic and immune cells thus contributing to the liver disease pathogenesis. Extracellular vesicles have been proved to act as major players in cell-cell communication, and their cargo changes in relation to pathophysiological states. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of chronic HCV infection and direct-acting antivirals (DAA) on exosome-delivered microRNAs and on their ability to modulate the innate immune response. Methods: Exosomes isolated from the plasma of healthy donors and naïve, viremic HCV patients before and after DAA treatment have been compared for their microRNAs cargo by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Functional assays with peripheral blood cells from healthy donors were performed to assess exosome-mediated immune responses. Results: MicroRNAs associated with HCV-related immunopathogenesis which were found to be enriched in exosomes of HCV viremic patients (in particular, miR-122-5p, miR-222-3p, miR-146a, miR-150-5p, miR-30c, miR-378a-3p and miR-20a-5p) were markedly reduced by DAA therapy. This exosome-microRNA cargo modulation parallels changes in their immunomodulatory properties in ex vivo experiments. Exosomes from HCV patients inhibit NK degranulation activity and this effect correlates with miR-122-5p or miR-222-3p levels. Conclusions: Enrichment of immunomodulatory microRNAs in exosomes of HCV patients was correlated with their inhibitory activity on innate immune cells function. Direct-acting antivirals (DAA) treatment was observed to revert both microRNA content and functional profiles of systemic exosomes towards those of healthy donors. Exosome-associated microRNAs may provide valuable biomarkers to monitor immune response recovery.
- Direct-acting antiviral agents
- Hepatitis C virus
- Natural Killer cell
ASJC Scopus subject areas