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Lack of Siglec-7 expression identifies a dysfunctional natural killer cell subset associated with liver inflammation and fibrosis in chronic HCV infection
  1. Stefania Varchetta1,
  2. Dalila Mele1,
  3. Andrea Lombardi2,
  4. Barbara Oliviero1,
  5. Stefania Mantovani1,2,
  6. Carmine Tinelli3,
  7. Marta Spreafico4,
  8. Daniele Prati4,
  9. Serena Ludovisi2,
  10. Giovanna Ferraioli5,
  11. Carlo Filice5,
  12. Alessio Aghemo6,
  13. Pietro Lampertico6,
  14. Floriana Facchetti6,
  15. Francesca Bernuzzi7,
  16. Pietro Invernizzi7,
  17. Mario U Mondelli1,2
  1. 1Research Laboratories, Department of Infectious Diseases, Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy
  2. 2Department of Internal Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
  3. 3Statistics and Clinical Epidemiology Service, Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy
  4. 4Department of Transfusion Medicine, Azienda Ospedaliera della Provincia di Lecco, A. Manzoni Hospital, Lecco, Italy
  5. 5Department of Infectious Diseases, Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy
  6. 6Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Fondazione IRCCS Cà Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico and University of Milan, Milano, Italy
  7. 7Liver Unit and Center for Autoimmune Liver Diseases, Humanitas Clinical and Research Center, Rozzano, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Professor Mario U Mondelli, Research Laboratories, Department of Infectious Diseases, Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, viale Golgi 19, Via Taramelli 5, Pavia 27100, Italy; mario.mondelli{at}


Objective Sialic-acid-binding immunoglobulin-like lectin-7 (Siglec-7) is a natural killer (NK) cell inhibitory receptor associated with NK phenotypic and functional abnormalities in HIV-1 infection. We investigated the significance of NK-expressed and serum soluble Siglec-7 in relation to NK functional ability and parameters of liver necroinflammation and fibrosis in chronic HCV infection.

Design NK-expressed and serum Siglec-7 were evaluated in 130 and 166 HCV-infected individuals by flow cytometry and ELISA, respectively. NK cell degranulation and cytokine secretion were determined by flow cytometry. 65 patients with chronic HBV infection, 84 with chronic biliary disorders and 168 healthy donors served as controls.

Results Expression of Siglec-7 was significantly decreased on NK cells from HCV-infected and HBV-infected patients and, conversely, serum Siglec-7 was significantly increased in these patients compared with controls. The frequency of Siglec-7pos NK cells was significantly higher at baseline in sustained virological responders to pegylated interferon-α/ribavirin treatment than in non-responders. Activating receptor expression was significantly higher in Siglec-7pos NK cells and was associated with increased degranulation and cytokine secretion compared with Siglec-7neg cells. In chronic HCV infection, there was an inverse correlation between Siglec-7 expression and serum aminotransferases, γ-glutamyl transpeptidase, liver stiffness, aspartate aminotransferase to platelet ratio index and fibrosis-4 scores, and a positive correlation between serum Siglec-7 and the same clinical parameters, including histological staging.

Conclusions These findings identify Siglec-7neg NK cells as a dysfunctional subpopulation associated with severe liver disease in chronic HCV infection.


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