Background & Aims: Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is strongly associated with insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma co-activator 1α (PGC-1α) is a transcriptional co-activator involved in the initiation of gluconeogenesis in the liver. Increased hepatic expression of PGC-1α has been implicated in insulin resistance. We investigated whether modulation of PGC-1α levels following HCV infection underlies HCV-associated hepatic insulin resistance. Methods: HCV genomes were expressed in hepatoma cells followed by analysis of PGC-1α and gluconeogenesis levels. Results: PGC-1α was robustly induced in HCV infected cells. PGC-1α induction was accompanied by an elevated expression of the gluconeogenic gene glucose-6 phosphatase (G6Pase) and increased glucose production. The induction of gluconeogenesis is HCV dependent, since interferon treatment abolishes PGC-1α and G6Pase elevation and decreases glucose output. Moreover, PGC-1α knockdown resulted in a significant reduction of G6Pase levels in HCV full length replicon cells, emphasizing the central role of PGC-1α in the exaggerated gluconeogenic response observed in HCV patients. Treatment of HCV replicon cells with the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine resulted in reduction of PGC-1α levels, suggesting that HCV-induced oxidative stress promoted PGC-1α upregulation. Finally, both PGC-1α and G6Pase RNA levels were significantly elevated in liver samples of HCV infected patients, highlighting the clinical relevance of these results. Conclusions: PGC-1α is robustly induced following HCV infection, resulting in an upregulated gluconeogenic response, thereby linking HCV infection to hepatic insulin resistance. Our results suggest that PGC-1α is a potential molecular target for the treatment of HCV-associated insulin resistance.
- Hepatitis C virus
- Insulin resistance
- Oxidative stress
- Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1α