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    Aims Ribavirin is a nucleoside analogue and remains a necessary component of both interferon-based and directly acting anti-viral regimens for the treatment of hepatitis C virus infection. The achievable concentration of ribavirin within hepatocytes is likely to be an important determinant of therapeutic outcome. In vitro expression levels of equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (ENT1) has been shown to be a predictor of treatment response in patients receiving nucleoside-based chemotherapeutic agents. We therefore investigated whether a similar relationship existed between ENT1 expression and ribavirin uptake in freshly isolated primary hepatocytes. Methods Primary hepatocytes were cultured on collagen-coated plates and exposed to ribavirin. Parallel samples were taken for high-performance liquid chromatography to assess ribavirin uptake and for quantitative polymerase chain reaction to evaluate ENT1 expression. Similar assays were performed on the human hepatoma cell line (Huh7). ENT1 gene sequence was analysed by cloning of polymerase chain reaction amplified complementary DNA followed by direct sequencing. Results There was a strong direct correlation between expression of ENT1 in primary hepatocytes and ribavirin uptake at 24 hr. Huh7 cells expressed ENT1 at similar levels to the majority of primary hepatocytes, but did not take up ribavirin. Sequencing revealed that ENT1 in Huh7 cells is wild type. Conclusions In this study, we clearly demonstrate that ribavirin uptake in primary human hepatocytes is variable and correlates with ENT1 expression. This variation in ENT1 expression may account for differences in response rate in patients receiving ribavirin-based anti-hepatitis C virus therapy.

    Citation

    Kanwal Baloch, Liqiong Chen, Ameer A Memon, Laura Dexter, William Irving, Mohammad Ilyas, Brian J Thomson. Equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 expression in primary human hepatocytes is highly variable and determines uptake of ribavirin. Antiviral chemistry & chemotherapy. 2017 Apr;25(1):2-10

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    PMID: 28417642

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