Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is often associated with type 2 diabetes. However, the precise mechanism underlying this association is still unclear. Here, using Huh-7.5 cells either harboring HCV-1b RNA replicons or infected with HCV-2a, we showed that HCV transcriptionally upregulated the genes for phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) and glucose 6-phosphatase (G6Pase), the rate-limiting enzymes for hepatic gluconeogenesis. In this way, HCV enhanced the cellular production of glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) and glucose. PEPCK and G6Pase gene expressions are controlled by the transcription factor forkhead box O1 (FoxO1). We observed that although neither the mRNA levels nor the protein levels of FoxO1 expression were affected by HCV, the level of phosphorylation of FoxO1 at Ser319 was markedly diminished in HCV-infected cells compared to the control cells, resulting in an increased nuclear accumulation of FoxO1, which is essential for sustaining its transcriptional activity. It was unlikely that the decreased level of FoxO1 phosphorylation was mediated through Akt inactivation, as we observed an increased phosphorylation of Akt at Ser473 in HCVinfected cells compared to control cells. By using specific inhibitors of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and reactive oxygen species (ROS), we demonstrated that HCV infection induced JNK activation via increased mitochondrial ROS production, resulting in decreased FoxO1 phosphorylation, FoxO1 nuclear accumulation, and, eventually, increased glucose production. We also found that HCV NS5A mediated increased ROS production and JNK activation, which is directly linked with the FoxO1-dependent increased gluconeogenesis. Taken together, these observations suggest that HCV promotes hepatic gluconeogenesis through an NS5Amediated, FoxO1-dependent pathway.
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