HCV E2 protein binds directly to thyroid cells and induces IL-8 production: A new mechanism for HCV induced thyroid autoimmunity

Nagako Akeno, Jason T. Blackard, Yaron Tomer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Scopus citations


HCV infection is well-known to be associated with autoimmune thyroiditis. However, the mechanisms by which HCV triggers thyroiditis are unknown. We hypothesized that HCV envelope proteins could induce thyroidal inflammation directly, thereby triggering thyroiditis by a bystander activation mechanism. To test this hypothesis we examined whether the HCV receptor CD81 was expressed and functional on thyroid cells. We found significant levels of CD81 mRNA by QPCR analysis, as well as CD81 protein by flow cytometric (FACS) analysis. Incubation of thyroid cells with HCV envelope glycoprotein E2 resulted in E2 binding to thyroid cells and activation of IL-8, an important pro-inflammatory cytokine. Intriguingly, thyroid cells incubated with E2 continued to proliferate normally and did not undergo apoptosis, as was reported in hepatocytes. We conclude that: (1) HCV envelope glycoprotein E2 can bind to CD81 receptors which are expressed on thyroid cells and induce a cascade of signaling pathway leading to IL-8 release; and (2) HCV may trigger thyroiditis in genetically susceptible individuals by bystander activation mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-344
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Autoimmunity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008
Externally publishedYes



  • Autoimmunity
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Infection thyroid
  • Thyroiditis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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