Matrix stiffness regulate apoptotic cell death in HIV-HCV co-infected hepatocytes: Importance for liver fibrosis progression

Murali Ganesan, Raghubendra Singh Dagur, Edward Makarov, Larisa I. Poluektova, Srivatsan Kidambi, Natalia A. Osna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


HIV-HCV co-infection causes rapid progression of liver fibrosis. These outcomes to liver cirrhosis can be improved, but not stopped by specific antiviral therapies. Due to high significance of HIV-HCV interactions for morbidity and mortality in co-infected patients, our attention was attracted to the multi-component pathogenesis of fibrosis progression as the transition to end-stage liver disease development. In this study, we hypothesize that increased matrix stiffness enhances apoptosis in HCV-HIV-co-infected hepatocytes and that capturing of apoptotic bodies (AB) derived from these infected hepatocytes by hepatic stellate cells (HSC) drives the fibrosis progression. As the source of viruses, JFH1 (HCV genotype 2a) and HIV-1ADA (either purified or containing in infected macrophage supernatants) were chosen. Using Huh7.5-CYP (RLW) cells and primary human hepatocytes mono-infected with HCV and HIV or co-infected, we have shown that both HCV and HIV RNA levels were increased in co-infected cells, which was accompanied by hepatocyte apoptosis. This apoptosis was attenuated by azidothymidine treatment. The levels of both infections and apoptosis were more prominent in primary hepatocytes cultured on substrates mimicking fibrotic stiffness (24 kPa-stiff) compared to substrates mimicking healthy liver (2.4 kPa-soft). The engulfment of AB from pathogen-exposed hepatocytes activated pro-fibrotic mRNAs in HSC. Overall, the increased matrix stiffness is not only a consequence of liver inflammation/fibrosis, but the condition that further accelerates liver fibrosis development. This is attributed to the switching of HSC to pro-fibrotic phenotype by capturing of excessive amounts of apoptotic HCV- and HIV-infected hepatocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-722
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 7 2018


  • Apoptosis
  • HCV
  • HIV
  • Hepatic stellate cells
  • Hepatocytes
  • Matrix stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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