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Expression of Interleukin-17 associated with disease progression and liver fibrosis with hepatitis B virus infection: IL-17 in HBV infection

Wen-Jun Du12, Jun-Hui Zhen13, Zhao-Qing Zeng2, Zhao-Min Zheng2, Yan Xu2, Lai-Ying Qin2 and Shi-Jun Chen12*

  • * Corresponding author: Shi-Jun Chen

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Shandong University, School of Medicine, Jinan, China

2 Department of Liver Diseases, Jinan Infectious Disease Hospital, Shandong University School of Medicine, Jinan, China

3 Department of Pathology, Shandong University School of Medicine, Jinan, China

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Diagnostic Pathology 2013, 8:40  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-8-40

Published: 28 February 2013



As a proinflammatory cytokine, interleukin-17 (IL-17) contributes to the inflammation of many autoimmune diseases. We examined IL-17 levels in serum and tissues from patients with chronic hepatitis B virus infection (HBV), and especially evaluated the role of IL-17 in the pathogenesis and progression of liver fibrosis.

Materials and methods

Whole venous blood was obtained from four patient groups: chronic hepatitis B (CHB, n = 47), liver cirrhosis (LC, n = 49), primary hepatocellular carcinoma (PHC, n = 44), chronic liver failure (CLF, n = 33), and a normal control group (n = 20). HBsAg was positive in all patients. Liver biopsy samples were acquired from asymptomatic HBsAg carriers (ASC, n = 35), CHB (n = 57), and LC (n = 31) patients. We performed ELISA to measure IL-17 levels in serum samples, and used reverse RT-PCR to measure IL-17 mRNA levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). IL-17 protein expression was detected in liver biopsy tissues by immunohistochemistry.


Compared to normal controls, serum IL-17 protein and mRNA levels were significantly higher in the four infection groups. LC patients exhibited the highest serum IL-17 and PBMC mRNA levels. No significant differences were found between the other three groups. High levels of IL-17 were also observed in tissues from CHB and LC patients, compared to ASC. IL-17 expression was mainly located in the portal area and was positively correlated with inflammation grade and fibrosis stage.


IL-17 expression was found to be increased with increasing degrees of liver fibrosis. This suggests that IL-17 may not only induce the inflammation, but also contribute to disease progression and chronicity.

Virtual Slides

The virtual slide(s) for this article can be found here: webcite

Asymptomatic; Hepatitis B surface antigen Carriers; Interleukin-17; Hepatitis B virus; Chronic hepatitis B; Liver cirrhosis; Primary hepatitis carcinoma; Chronic liver failure; Fibrosis