Recently, genetic polymorphisms occurring in the interferon (IFN)-lambda gene region were associated with response to IFN-based treatment ofhepatitis C infection. Both infection with the hepatitis C virus and IFN therapy are associated with decreased serum cholesterol and high cholesterolhas been associated with increased likelihood to respond to IFN. We sought to determine if the IFN-lambda gene variant was also associated withserum lipid levels in chronic hepatitis C patients. We compared genotypes of the rs12979860 polymorphism, located proximal to the IL28 gene, withserum lipid and apolipoprotein levels in 746 subjects with chronic hepatitis C virus infection, not currently undergoing treatment, using multivariable analysis of variance. Levels of total cholesterol (P = 6.0 x 10(-4)), apolipoprotein B (P = 1.3 x 10(-6)) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (P = 8.9 x 10(-10)) were significantly higher in subjects carrying the rs12979860 CC responder genotype compared with those with the CT or TT genotype.Levels of triglycerides (P = 0.03), apolipoprotein A-I (P = 0.06), and apolipoprotein E (P = 0.01) were slightly lower in the rs12979860 CC genotypegroup, whereas levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (P = 0.78) and apolipoprotein C-III (P = 0.74) did not vary by rs12979860 genotype.
Our results suggest that low levels of LDL cholesterol in chronic hepatitis C patients may be a marker of host endogenous IFN response to hepatitis C and that subjects with the rs12979860 CC responder genotype may have a lower endogenous IFN response to the virus.