Hepatitis C virus infection of human thyrocytes: Metabolic, hormonal, and immunological implications

Sara Salehi Hammerstad, Jason T. Blackard, Angela Lombardi, Randall P. Owen, Erlinda Concepcion, Zhengzi Yi, Weijia Zhang, Yaron Tomer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Context: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a prevalent disease worldwide. Thyroid dysfunction is one of the most common extrahepatic manifestations of HCV infection. We hypothesized that HCV can directly infect human thyrocytes thereby causing thyroid dysfunction. Setting: Human thyrocytes in primary cell culture, ML-1 human thyroid cell line, and Huh7.5 human hepatocyte cell line were infected with HCV using the Huh7.5JFH1 cell line that releases infectious HCV virions. After infection, the release of new virions, production of proinflammatory cytokines, and expression of miR-122 were evaluated. Ribonucleic acid (RNA) extracted from HCV-infected cells and mock-infected cells was subjected to RNA sequencing and transcriptomic analysis. Ingenuity pathway analysis was used to detect up- and down-regulated pathways. Results: Human thyrocytes express major HCV entry factors including CD81, occludin, claudin-1, and scavenger receptor class B1. Viral infection of thyroid cells was confirmed by detection of HCV core protein in supernatants and negative-sense HCV RNA in cell lysates. HCV infection of thyrocytes induced the production of the chemokine CXCL-8 and the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and significantly increased the expression of miR-122. Moreover, HCV infection of thyrocytes decreased expression of the thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin genes and increased expression of the deiodinase 2 gene. The top upregulated pathways in HCV-infected thyrocytes were immune pathways and metabolic pathways, while infected hepatocytes upregulated lipid and glucose metabolism pathways as previously reported. Conclusions: HCV infection may induce thyroid dysfunction by different mechanisms including direct infection of thyrocytes leading to activation of inflammatory pathways and upregulation of miR-122. These findings support a general mechanism for viral induction of autoimmunity through direct infection of target tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1157-1168
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Cytokine
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • IL-8
  • MiR-122
  • RNA sequencing
  • Thyroiditis autoimmune

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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