Imaging of hepatitis C virus infection in liver grafts after liver transplantation

Laura Mensa, Sofía Pérez-Del-Pulgar, Gonzalo Crespo, George Koutsoudakis, Carlos Fernández-Carrillo, Mairene Coto-Llerena, Rosa Miquel, Helena Allende, Lluís Castells, Miquel Navasa, Xavier Forns

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Background & Aims The detection of native hepatitis C virus (HCV) antigens in liver tissue may be relevant to diagnostic purposes and to better understand the pathogenesis of HCV infection. The aim of our study was to characterize HCV antigens in liver grafts. Methods We selected 32 liver transplant (LT) recipients with recurrent hepatitis C. HCV core and NS5A antigens were detected in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) liver biopsies obtained immediately after graft reperfusion (negative controls), during the acute phase of HCV infection (1-6 months) and during follow-up (7-74 months) after LT. Viral antigens were assessed by immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy. Results All reperfusion biopsies were negative for both antigens. Core protein was detected in 75% and 33% of acute phase and follow-up biopsies, respectively. HCV antigens were not detected in any of the 10 samples from patients who cleared HCV after antiviral treatment. Immunostaining was hepatocellular, with a granular cytoplasmic pattern and a wide spectrum of intensity. We found a significant association between viral load and the presence of HCV core-positive hepatocytes (p = 0.004). NS5A colocalized strongly with core (66%) and adipophilin (36%), supporting the localization of core and NS5A around lipid droplets. A detailed three-dimensional analysis showed that NS5A surrounded the core and adipophilin-positive areas. Conclusions HCV antigens can be detected in FFPE liver biopsies by immunohistochemistry. The in vivo colocalization of core and NS5A proteins around the lipid droplets supports that the latter may play a role in virus particle production, similar to what reported in vitro. © 2013 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-278
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013


  • Confocal microscopy
  • HCV antigen detection
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Liver transplantation


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