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Abstract

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) possesses a second open reading frame (ORF) within the core gene encoding an additional protein, known as the alternative reading frame protein (ARFP), F or core+1. The biological significance of the core+1/ARF protein remains elusive. However, several independent studies have shown the presence of core+1/ARFP antibodies in chronically HCV-infected patients. Furthermore, a higher prevalence of core+1/ARFP antibodies was detected in patients with HCV-associated hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Here, we investigated the incidence of core+1/ARFPantibodies in chronically HCV-infected patients at different stages of cirrhosis in comparison to chronically HCV-infected patients at earlier stages of disease. Using ELISA, we assessed the prevalence of anti-core+1 antibodies in 30 patients with advanced cirrhosis [model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) ≥15] in comparison with 50 patients with mild cirrhosis (MELD <15) and 164 chronic HCV patients without cirrhosis. 28.7 % of HCV patients with cirrhosis were positive for anti-core+1 antibodies, in contrast with 16.5 % of non-cirrhotic HCV patients. Moreover, there was significantly higher positivity for anti-core+1 antibodies in HCV patients with advanced cirrhosis (36.7 %) compared to those with early cirrhosis (24 %) (<0.05). These findings, together with the high prevalence of anti-core+1 antibodies in HCV patients with HCC, suggest that core+1 protein may have a role in virus-associated pathogenesis, and provide evidence to suggest that the levels of anti-core+1 antibodies may serve as a marker for disease progression.

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2017-07-01
2019-12-13
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