Background and aim: Complement receptor type 1 (CR1) is a transmembrane protein, and human erythrocyte CR1 (E-CR1) is involved in the transport of circulating immune complexes (IC) from the circulation to the reticuloendothelial system, including the liver and spleen. In chronic viral hepatitis, increased levels of IC containing viral particles and an association with various extrahepatic manifestations have been reported. However, regulatory mechanisms for IC levels are not fully understood. Patients/subjects and methods: We analysed IC, E-CR1, and quantitative polymorphism of the CR1 gene in 149 patients with chronic viral liver diseases and in 64 normal blood donors using an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay, radioimmunoassay, and polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism, respectively. We also analysed the effect of CR1 gene polymorphism on IC binding to E-CR1 using molecular methods. Results: E-CR1 levels in patients with chronic hepatitis and chronic viral liver diseases as a whole correlated inversely with increased levels of IC. Moreover, significantly high levels of IC were observed in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CH-C) who were homozygous for the E-CR1 low density allele. We also found low levels of E-CR1 in liver cirrhosis and CH-C but not in CH-B. Low levels of E-CR1 in CH-C were observed, even after considering the polymorphism of the CR1 gene. Finally, we demonstrated CR1 gene polymorphism dependent binding of hepatitis virus containing IC. Conclusions: Our results emphasise the important role of E-CR1 in clearance of IC from the circulation and the acquired, rather than inherited, decrease in E-CR1 in chronic viral liver diseases, especially of type C.
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