Metabolic aspects of hepatitis C viral infection: steatohepatitis resembling but distinct from NASH
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Although the target of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the liver, it has become progressively more evident that HCV can induce diseases in numerous organs. Recently, much attention has been drawn to metabolic disorders in HCV infection. Initially, hepatic steatosis and disturbances in lipid metabolism were found to be characteristic of HCV infection, and, subsequently, a correlation was noted between HCV infection and diabetes. It is now evident that HCV, by itself, can induce insulin resistance by way of disturbing the intracellular signaling pathway of insulin by the function of HCV core protein. Insulin resistance, caused by HCV infection, evolves to type 2 diabetes when superimposed on a high-fat diet and obesity. The fact that HCV infection induces insulin resistance by the virus itself may influence the progression of chronic hepatitis and open up novel therapeutic approaches. When hepatitis C is compared with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), there are a number of similarities and several differences. From the metabolic aspect, hepatitis C resembles NASH in numerous features, such as the presence of steatosis, serum dyslipidemia, and oxidative stress in the liver, suggesting that hepatitis C is a steatohepatitis. In contrast, there are noticeable differences between hepatitis C and NASH, in that HCV modulates cellular gene expression and intracellular signal transduction, including the activation of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase and transcription factor activator protein (AP)-1, while such details have not been noted for NASH. This difference may explain the markedly higher incidence of HCC development in chronic hepatitis C compared with that in NASH. HCV infection needs to be viewed not only as a liver disease but also as a metabolic disease, and this viewpoint could open up a novel way to the molecular understanding of the pathogenesis of hepatitis C, as a virus-associated steatohepatitis (VASH).
Key wordsdiabetes hepatitis C virus insulin resistance steatohepatitis hepatocarcinogenesis lipid metabolism
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