ObjectiveThe transcriptional response in the liver during HCV infection is critical for determining clinical outcomes. This issue remains relatively unexplored as tissue access to address this at scale is usually limited. We aimed to profile the transcriptomics of HCV-infected livers to describe the expression networks involved and assess the effect on them of major predictors of clinical outcome such as IFNL4 (interferon lambda 4) host genotype and sex.DesignWe took advantage of a large clinical study of HCV therapy accompanied by baseline liver biopsy to examine the drivers of transcription in tissue samples in 195 patients also genotyped genome-wide for host and viral single nucleotide polymorphisms. We addressed the role of host factors (disease status, sex, genotype, age) and viral factors (load, mutation) on transcriptional responses.ResultsWe observe key modules of transcription which can be impacted differentially by host and viral factors. Underlying cirrhotic state had the most substantial impact, even in a stable, compensated population. Notably, sex had a major impact on antiviral responses in concert with IL28B (interleukin 28B)/IFNL4 genotype, with stronger interferon and humoral responses in females. Males tended towards a dominant cellular immune response. In both sexes, there was a strong influence of the underlying host disease status and of specific viral mutations, and sex-specific expression quantitative trait loci were also observed.ConclusionThese features help define the major influences on tissue responses in HCV infection, impacting on the response to treatment and with broader implications for responses in other sex-biased infections.
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