Background: HIV infection contributes to accelerated rates of progression of liver fibrosis during hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, and HCV liver disease contributes to mortality during HIV infection. Although mechanisms underlying these interactions are not well known, soluble and cellular markers of immune activation associate with disease progression during both infections.
Methods: We identified proteins varying in expression across the plasma proteomes of subjects with untreated HIV infection, untreated HCV infection with low aspartate transaminase/platelet ratio index, untreated HCV infection with high aspartate transaminase/platelet ratio index, HIV–HCV coinfection, and controls. We examined correlations between dysregulated proteins and markers of immune activation to uncover biomarkers specific to disease states.
Results: We observed the anticipated higher frequencies of HLA-DR+CD38+CD4 and CD8 T cells, higher serum soluble CD14 levels, and higher serum interleukin-6 levels for HCV- and HIV-infected groups compared with controls. Plasma proteome analysis identified 2297 peptides mapping to 227 proteins, and quantitative analysis of peptide intensity identified significant changes in 85 proteins across the 5 groups. Abundance for 7 of these proteins was validated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Forty-three of these proteins correlated with markers of immune activation, including at least 2 proteins that may directly drive T-cell activation. As a functional validation, we tested the enzymatic pathway product (lysophosphatidic acid, LPA) of one such protein, ecotonucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase-2, for ability to activate T cells in vitro. LPA activated T cells to express CD38 and HLA-DR.
Conclusions: These data indicate that elevated levels of ecotonucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase-2 and LPA during advanced HCV disease may play a role in exacerbating immune activation during HCV–HIV coinfection.