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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein is a multifunctional protein. We examined whether it can interact with cellular proteins, thus contributing to viral pathogenesis. Using the HCV core protein as a bait to screen a human liver cDNA library in a yeast two-hybrid screening system, we have isolated several positive clones encoding cellular proteins that interact with the HCV core protein. Interestingly, more than half of these clones encode the cytoplasmic domain of lymphotoxin-beta receptor (LT betaR), which is a member of the tumor necrosis factor receptor family. Their binding was confirmed by in vitro glutathione S-transferase fusion protein binding assay and protein-protein blotting assay to be direct and specific. The binding sites were mapped within a 58-amino-acid region of the cytoplasmic tail of LT betaR. The binding site in the HCV core protein was localized within amino acid residues 36 to 91 from the N terminus, corresponding to the hydrophilic region of the protein. In mammalian cells, the core protein was found to be associated with the membrane-bound LT betaR. Since the LT betaR is involved in germinal center formation and developmental regulation of peripheral lymphoid organs, lymph node development, and apoptotic signaling, the binding of HCV core protein to LT betaR suggests the possibility that this viral protein has an immunomodulating function and may explain the mechanism of viral persistence and pathogenesis of HCV.