The novel immunoregulatory molecule FGL2: A potential biomarker for severity of chronic hepatitis C virus infection
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BACKGROUND & AIMS: This report describes the use of a novel sensitive and specific ELISA for the measurement of human fibrinogen-like protein 2 (FGL2/fibroleukin), a novel effector of natural regulatory T (Treg) cells, to predict the course of chronic hepatitis C viral infection (HCV). METHODS: Plasma levels of FGL2 were measured in HCV patients and compared to healthy controls and to patients with alcoholic liver disease. RESULTS: FGL2 levels were significantly higher in HCV patients (84.3+/-89.1 ng/ml, n=80) compared to healthy controls (36.4+/-21.9 ng/ml, n=30, p<0.001), to a subset of patients who cleared HCV following anti-viral treatment (16.6+/-19.7 ng/ml, n=32, p<0.001), and to patients with inactive alcoholic liver disease (18.8+/-17.4 ng/ml, n=24, p<0.001). Among HCV patients, plasma levels of FGL2 correlated significantly with the stage of fibrosis (p=0.001) and were significantly higher in patients with cirrhosis (164.1+121.8 ng/ml, n=60) compared to non-cirrhotics (57.7+/-52.8 ng/ml, n=20, p=0.001). Genotype 1 patients had significantly higher levels of FGL2 (98.1+/-100.3 ng/ml, n=60) compared to patients with genotype 2/3 (41.5+/-38.6 ng/ml, n=20, p=0.0008). Patients with genotype 2/3 had FGL2 levels similar to healthy controls (41.5+/-38.6 vs. 36.41+/-21.9 ng/ml, p=ns). Infiltrating lymphocytes in liver biopsies of HCV patients were positive for either FGL2 or FoxP3 (a marker of Treg cells) or expressed both markers. CONCLUSIONS: This report documents the development of a sensitive ELISA for measurement of plasma levels of FGL2 an effector Treg cells, which correlates with the severity of HCV infection.
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