Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are central to tissue remodelling; however, little is known about the temporal pattern and differential regulation of hepatic MMP expression in the course of chronic human liver disease. Using quantitative reverse transcription–PCR ELISA assays, we studied hepatic mRNA expression of MMP-1, -2, -3, -7, -9, -10, -11, -13 and -14 in patients with chronic hepatitis C and hepatitis C virus-induced end-stage liver cirrhosis and controls. Results were compared with histology, hepatic expression of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMP)-1, -2 and -3, procollagen types I and IV, laminin, and with circulating protein levels of hyaluronate, TIMP-1 and -2 and MMP proenzymes, as measured by ELISA. The impact of the MMP-3(-1171) promoter polymorphism on hepatic MMP-3 expression was analysed. Hepatic mRNA expression data identified differentially regulated groups of MMPs during the course of chronic hepatitis C, showing either steadily increasing mRNA expression with disease progression (MMP-1, -2, -7 and -14) or transiently elevated expression (MMP-9, -11 and -13). The first group closely correlated to the parameters of fibrogenesis. Hepatic MMP-3 expression was unrelated to disease stage, but was determined by the MMP-3(-1171) promoter polymorphism. In conclusion, MMP expression during the course of chronic hepatitis C appears to be a closely regulated process, with different clusters of coordinately regulated MMP genes being identified.

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