The interferon-gamma pathway is selectively up-regulated in the liver of patients with secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis

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Abstract

Aim of this study was to investigate the activation of the IFNγ pathway in the affected liver and in the blood of patients with secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (sHLH). To this purpose, the mRNA expression levels of IFNG and IFNγ-inducible genes as well as Tyrosine (701)-phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) protein levels were evaluated in the liver and in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of three patients with sHLH with predominant liver involvement. The mRNA expression levels of IFNG and IFNγ-inducible genes were markedly higher in patient livers compared to control livers and to one disease control liver. Conversely, slight differences in the expression levels of Type I IFN-inducible genes and other classical inflammatory cytokine genes were found. Further supporting the activation of the IFNγ pathway, higher protein levels of phosphorylated and total STAT1 were detected in patient livers compared to control livers. When the expression of the same genes analysed in liver tissues was evaluated in PBMCs collected from 2 out of 3 patients before the liver biopsy, we found that mRNA levels of IFNγ-inducible genes were markedly increased. Accordingly, high circulating levels of IFNγ-inducible CXCL9 were observed in patients. Altogether, these data demonstrate the selective and marked up-regulation of the IFNγ pathway in the liver tissue and blood of patients with active sHLH. Finally, we show that measurement of circulating CXCL9 levels and evaluation of IFNγ-inducible gene expression levels in PBMCs may represent a new valid tool to better identify patients with suspected HLH with predominant liver involvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0226043
JournalPLoS One
Volume14
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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