Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a leading cause of chronic liver disease. The identification and characterization of key host cellular factors that play a role in the HCV replication cycle are important for the understanding of disease pathogenesis and the identification of novel antiviral therapeutic targets. Gene expression profiling of JFH-1-infected Huh7 cells by microarray analysis was performed to identify host cellular genes that are transcriptionally regulated by infection. The expression of host genes involved in cellular defense mechanisms (apoptosis, proliferation, and antioxidant responses), cellular metabolism (lipid and protein metabolism), and intracellular transport (vesicle trafficking and cytoskeleton regulation) was significantly altered by HCV infection. The gene expression patterns identified provide insight into the potential mechanisms that contribute to HCV-associated pathogenesis. These include an increase in proinflammatory and proapoptotic signaling and a decrease in the antioxidant response pathways of the infected cell. To investigate whether any of the host genes regulated by infection were required by HCV during replication, small interfering RNA (siRNA) silencing of host gene expression in HCV-infected cells was performed. Decreasing the expression of host genes involved in lipid metabolism (TXNIP and CYP1A1 genes) and intracellular transport (RAB33b and ABLIM3 genes) reduced the replication and secretion of HCV, indicating that they may be important factors for the virus replication cycle. These results show that major changes in the expression of many different genes in target cells may be crucial in determining the outcome of HCV infection.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) replicates through an error-prone process that may support the evolution of genetic variants resistant to the host cell antiviral response and interferon (IFN)-based therapy. We evaluated HCV-IFN interactions within a long-term culture system of Huh7 cell lines harboring different variants of an HCV type 1b subgenomic RNA replicon that differed at only two sites within the NS5A-encoding region. A replicon with a K insertion at HCV codon 2040 replicated efficiently and exhibited sequence stability in the absence of host antiviral pressure. In contrast, a replicon with an L2198S point mutation replicated poorly and triggered a cellular response characterized by IFN-β production and low-level IFN-stimulated gene (ISG) expression. When maintained in long term-culture, the L2198S RNA evolved into a stable high-passage (HP) variant with six additional point mutations throughout the HCV protein-encoding region that enhanced viral replication. The HP RNA transduced Huh7 cells with more than 1,000-fold greater efficiency than its L2198S progenitor or the K2040 sequence. Replication of the HP RNA resisted suppression by IFN-α treatment and was associated with virus-directed reduction in host cell expression of ISG56, an antagonist of HCV RNA translation. Accordingly, the HP RNA was retained within polyribosome complexes in vivo that were refractory to IFN-induced disassembly. These results identify ISG56 as a translational control effector of the host response to HCV and provide direct evidence to link this response to viral sequence evolution, ISG regulation, and selection of the IFN-resistant viral phenotype.
Cell-based hepatitis C virus (HCV) replicon systems have provided a means for understanding HCV replication mechanisms and for testing new antiviral agents. We describe here a mathematical model of HCV replication that assumes that the translation of the HCV polyprotein occurs in the cytoplasm, that HCV RNA synthesis occurs in vesicular-membrane structures, and that the strategy of replication involves a double-stranded RNA intermediate. Our results shed light on the intracellular dynamics of subgenomic HCV RNA replication from transfection to steady state within Huh-7 cells. We predict the following: (i) about 6 × 103 ribosomes are involved in generating millions of HCV NS5B-polymerase molecules in a Huh-7 cell, (ii) the observed 10:1 asymmetry of plus- to minus-strand RNA levels can be explained by a higher-affinity (200-fold) interaction of HCV NS5B polymerase-containing replication complexes with HCV minus-strand RNA over HCV plus-strand RNA in order to initiate synthesis, (iii) the latter higher affinity can also account for the observed ∼6:1 plus-strand/minus-strand ratio in vesicular-membrane structures, and (iv) the introduction of higher numbers of HCV plus-strand RNA by transfection leads to faster attainment of steady-state but does not change the steady-state HCV RNA level. Fully permissive HCV replication systems have been developed, and the model presented here is a first step toward building a comprehensive model for complete HCV replication. Moreover, the model can serve as an important tool in understanding HCV replication mechanisms and should prove useful in designing and evaluating new antivirals against HCV.
Infections with hepatitis C virus (HCV) progress to chronic phase in 80% of patients. To date, the effect produced by HCV on the expression of microRNAs (miRs) involved in the interferon-β (IFN-β) antiviral pathway has not been explored in details. Thus, we compared the expression profile of 24 selected miRs in IFN-β-treated Huh-7 cells and in three different clones of Huh-7 cells carrying a self-replicating HCV RNA which express all viral proteins (HCV replicon system).
The expression profile of 24 selected miRs in IFN-β-treated Huh-7 cells and in HCV replicon 21-5 clone with respect to Huh-7 parental cells was analysed by real-time PCR. To exclude clone specific variations, the level of 16 out of 24 miRs, found to be modulated in 21-5 clone, was evaluated in two other HCV replicon clones, 22-6 and 21-7. Prediction of target genes of 3 miRs, confirmed in all HCV clones, was performed by means of miRGator program. The gene dataset obtained from microarray analysis of HCV clones was farther used to validate target prediction.
The expression profile revealed that 16 out of 24 miRs were modulated in HCV replicon clone 21-5. Analysis in HCV replicon clones 22-6 and 21-7 indicated that 3 out of 16 miRs, (miR-128a, miR-196a and miR-142-3p) were modulated in a concerted fashion in all three HCV clones. Microarray analysis revealed that 37 out of 1981 genes, predicted targets of the 3 miRs, showed an inverse expression relationship with the corresponding miR in HCV clones, as expected for true targets. Classification of the 37 genes by Panther System indicated that the dataset contains genes involved in biological processes that sustain HCV replication and/or in pathways potentially implicated in the control of antiviral response by HCV infection.
The present findings reveal that 3 IFN-β-regulated miRs and 37 genes, which are likely their functional targets, were commonly modulated by HCV in three replicon clones. The future use of miR inhibitors or mimics and/or siRNAs might be useful for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic strategies aimed at the recovering of protective innate responses in HCV infections.
The development of a reproducible model system for the study of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has the potential to significantly enhance the study of virus-host interactions and provide future direction for modeling the pathogenesis of HCV. While there are studies describing global gene expression changes associated with HCV infection, changes in the proteome have not been characterized. We report the first large-scale proteome analysis of the highly permissive Huh-7.5 cell line containing a full-length HCV replicon. We detected >4,200 proteins in this cell line, including HCV replicon proteins, using multidimensional liquid chromatographic (LC) separations coupled to mass spectrometry. Consistent with the literature, a comparison of HCV replicon-positive and -negative Huh-7.5 cells identified expression changes of proteins involved in lipid metabolism. We extended these analyses to liver biopsy material from HCV-infected patients where a total of >1,500 proteins were detected from only 2 μg of liver biopsy protein digest using the Huh-7.5 protein database and the accurate mass and time tag strategy. These findings demonstrate the utility of multidimensional proteome analysis of the HCV replicon model system for assisting in the determination of proteins/pathways affected by HCV infection. Our ability to extend these analyses to the highly complex proteome of small liver biopsies with limiting protein yields offers the unique opportunity to begin evaluating the clinical significance of protein expression changes associated with HCV infection.
Current treatments for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection employing pegylated interferon plus ribavirin are successful in approximately 50% of patients, demonstrating a need for more effective therapy. Consensus interferon (CIFN) is a recombinant type I interferon (IFN) that has demonstrated efficacy in patients who fail to respond to conventional IFN based therapy, suggesting it has distinct biological properties from native IFN species. Here we evaluated the host cell antiviral response and anti-HCV actions induced by IFN-alpha2a (IFN-α2a), pegylated-IFN-alpha2b (PEG-IFN) or CIFN treatment of cultured immortalized human hepatocytes, Huh7 human hepatoma cells, and Huh7 cells harboring genetically distinct HCV RNA replicons or infected with HCV 2A.
Cultured cells were treated with each IFN at relevant dosing based upon the pharmacologic attainable in vivo serum maximum (Cmax) IFN concentrations. Gene expression and antiviral properties were measured using protein, RNA and virus quantification assays.
Treatment with CIFN maximally triggered JaK-STAT signaling in association with enhancement of ISG expression. The increased antiviral potency of CIFN over IFN-α2a and PEG-IFN associated with enhancement of the IFN-induced blockade upon viral protein synthesis, protection of the cellular IPS-1 protein from proteolysis by HCV, and reduced replication of an IFN-resistant HCV replicon variant. Microarray analyses revealed that treatment with CIFN induced a pattern of ISG expression in cultured hepatocytes that was distinct from either IFN-α2a or PEG-IFN.
CIFN exhibits increased anti-HCV potency over IFN-α2a and PEG-IFN through maximal and distinct induction of ISG expression and enhancement of the intracellular innate antiviral response while providing therapeutic protection of IPS-1 from HCV proteolysis. CIFN may therefore offer a treatment regimen whose actions impart translational control programs and restoration of the RIG-I/IPS-1 pathway of innate immune amplification that could be considered for treating previous treatment failures.
Hepatitis C Virus; interferon; RIG-I; IPS-1; MAVS; HCV; therapy
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA synthesis and protein expression affect cell homeostasis by modulation of gene expression. The impact of HCV replication on global cell transcription has not been fully evaluated. Thus, we analysed the expression profiles of different clones of human hepatoma-derived Huh-7 cells carrying a self-replicating HCV RNA which express all viral proteins (HCV replicon system).
First, we compared the expression profile of HCV replicon clone 21-5 with both the Huh-7 parental cells and the 21-5 cured (21-5c) cells. In these latter, the HCV RNA has been eliminated by IFN-α treatment. To confirm data, we also analyzed microarray results from both the 21-5 and two other HCV replicon clones, 22-6 and 21-7, compared to the Huh-7 cells. The study was carried out by using the Applied Biosystems (AB) Human Genome Survey Microarray v1.0 which provides 31,700 probes that correspond to 27,868 human genes. Microarray analysis revealed a specific transcriptional program induced by HCV in replicon cells respect to both IFN-α-cured and Huh-7 cells. From the original datasets of differentially expressed genes, we selected by Venn diagrams a final list of 38 genes modulated by HCV in all clones. Most of the 38 genes have never been described before and showed high fold-change associated with significant p-value, strongly supporting data reliability. Classification of the 38 genes by Panther System identified functional categories that were significantly enriched in this gene set, such as histones and ribosomal proteins as well as extracellular matrix and intracellular protein traffic. The dataset also included new genes involved in lipid metabolism, extracellular matrix and cytoskeletal network, which may be critical for HCV replication and pathogenesis.
Our data provide a comprehensive analysis of alterations in gene expression induced by HCV replication and reveal modulation of new genes potentially useful for selection of antiviral targets.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) replicon is a unique system for the development of a high-throughput screen (HTS), since the analysis of inhibitors requires the quantification of a decrease in a steady-state level of HCV RNA. HCV replicon replication is dependent on host cell factors, and any toxic effects may have a significant impact on HCV replicon replication. Therefore, determining the antiviral specificity of compounds presents a challenge for the identification of specific HCV inhibitors. Here we report the development of an HCV/bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) dual replicon assay suitable for HTS to address these issues. The HCV reporter enzyme is the endogenous NS3 protease contained within the HCV genome, while the BVDV reporter enzyme is a luciferase enzyme engineered into the BVDV genome. The HTS uses a mixture of HCV and BVDV replicon cell lines placed in the same well of a 96-well plate and isolated in the same cell backgrounds (Huh-7). The format consists of three separate but compatible assays: the first quantitates the amount of cytotoxicity based upon the conversion of Alamar blue dye via cellular enzymes, while the second indirectly quantitates HCV replicon replication through measurement of the amount of NS3 protease activity present. The final assay measures the amount of luciferase activity present from the BVDV replicon cells, as an indicator of the specificity of the test compounds. This HCV/BVDV dual replicon assay provides a reliable format to determine the potency and specificity of HCV replicon inhibitors.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects liver cells and its replication in other cells is incompletely defined. Human hepatoma Huh-7 cells harboring subgenomic HCV replicons were used in somatic cell fusion experiments with human embryonic kidney 293 cells as a means of examining the permissiveness of 293 cells for HCV subgenomic RNA replication. 293 cells were generally not permissive for replication of Huh-7 cell-adapted replicons. However, upon coculturing of the two cell lines, we selected rare replicon-containing cells, termed 293Rep cells, that resembled parental 293 cells. Direct metabolic labeling of cells with 33P in the presence of actinomycin D and Northern blotting to detect the negative strand of the replicon demonstrated functional RNA replicons in 293Rep cells. Furthermore, Western blots revealed that 293Rep cells expressed the HCV nonstructural proteins as well as markers of the naïve 293 cells but not Huh-7 cells. Propidium iodide staining and fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis of 293Rep cells revealed that clone 293Rep17 closely resembled naïve 293 cells. Transfection of total RNA from 293Rep17 into naïve 293 cells produced replicon-containing 293 cell lines with characteristics distinct from those of Huh-7-derived replicon cell lines. Relative to Huh-7 replicons, the 293 cell replicons were less sensitive to inhibition by alpha interferon and substantially more sensitive to inhibition by poly(I)-poly(C) double-stranded RNA. This study established HCV subgenomic replicons in nonhepatic 293 cells and demonstrated their utility in expanding the study of cellular HCV RNA replication.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication appears to be restricted to the human hepatoma cell line Huh-7, indicating that a favorable cellular environment exists within these cells. Although adaptive mutations in the HCV nonstructural proteins typically enhance the replicative capacity of subgenomic replicons in Huh-7 cells, replication can only be detected in a subpopulation of these cells. Here we show that self-replicating subgenomic RNA could be eliminated from Huh-7 clones by prolonged treatment with alpha interferon (IFN-α) and that a higher frequency of cured cells could support both subgenomic and full-length HCV replication. The increased permissiveness of one of the cured cell lines allowed us to readily detect HCV RNA and antigens early after RNA transfection, eliminating the need for selection of replication-positive cells. We also demonstrate that a single amino acid substitution in NS5A is sufficient for establishing HCV replication in a majority of cured cells and that the major phosphate acceptor site of subtype 1b NS5A is not essential for HCV replication.
Host factor pathways are known to be essential for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and replication in human liver cells. To search for novel host factor proteins required for HCV replication, we screened a subgenomic genotype 1b replicon cell line (Luc-1b) with a kinome and druggable collection of 20,779 siRNAs. We identified and validated several enzymes required for HCV replication, including class III phosphatidylinositol 4-kinases (PI4KA and PI4KB), carbamoyl-phosphate synthetase 2, aspartate transcarbamylase, and dihydroorotase (CAD), and mevalonate (diphospho) decarboxylase. Knockdown of PI4KA could inhibit the replication and/or HCV RNA levels of the two subgenomic genotype 1b clones (SG-1b and Luc-1b), two subgenomic genotype 1a clones (SG-1a and Luc-1a), JFH-1 genotype 2a infectious virus (JFH1-2a), and the genomic genotype 1a (FL-1a) replicon. In contrast, PI4KB knockdown inhibited replication and/or HCV RNA levels of Luc-1b, SG-1b, and Luc-1a replicons. The small molecule inhibitor, PIK93, was found to block subgenomic genotype 1b (Luc-1b), subgenomic genotype 1a (Luc-1a), and genomic genotype 2a (JFH1-2a) infectious virus replication in the nanomolar range. PIK93 was characterized by using quantitative chemical proteomics and in vitro biochemical assays to demonstrate PIK93 is a bone fide PI4KA and PI4KB inhibitor. Our data demonstrate that genetic or pharmacological modulation of PI4KA and PI4KB inhibits multiple genotypes of HCV and represents a novel druggable class of therapeutic targets for HCV infection.
In this study, we established a flow cytometry live cell-based assay that permits the screening of hepatitis C
virus (HCV) inhibitors. Specifically, we created a stable cell line, which harbors a subgenomic replicon encoding an
NS5A-YFP fusion protein. This system allows direct measurement of YFP fluorescence in live hepatoma cells in which
the HCV replicon replicates. We demonstrated that this stable fluorescent system permits the rapid and sensitive
quantification of HCV replication inhibition by direct-acting antiviral agents (DAA) including protease and NS5A
inhibitors and host-targeting antiviral agents (HTA) including cyclophilin inhibitors. This flow cytometry-based live cell
assay is well suited for multiple applications such as the evaluation of HCV replication as well as antiviral drug screening.
Direct-acting antiviral; FACS assay; HCV; hepatoma cells; host-targeting antiviral; inhibitors.
Specific differences in signaling and antiviral properties between the different Lambda-interferons, a novel group of interferons composed of IL-28A, IL-28B and IL-29, are currently unknown. This is the first study comparatively investigating the transcriptome and the antiviral properties of the Lambda-interferons IL-28A and IL-29.
Expression studies were performed by microarray analysis, quantitative PCR (qPCR), reporter gene assays and immunoluminometric assays. Signaling was analyzed by Western blot. HCV replication was measured in Huh-7 cells expressing subgenomic HCV replicon. All hepatic cell lines investigated as well as primary hepatocytes expressed both IFN-λ receptor subunits IL-10R2 and IFN-λR1. Both, IL-28A and IL-29 activated STAT1 signaling. As revealed by microarray analysis, similar genes were induced by both cytokines in Huh-7 cells (IL-28A: 117 genes; IL-29: 111 genes), many of them playing a role in antiviral immunity. However, only IL-28A was able to significantly down-regulate gene expression (n = 272 down-regulated genes). Both cytokines significantly decreased HCV replication in Huh-7 cells. In comparison to liver biopsies of patients with non-viral liver disease, liver biopsies of patients with HCV showed significantly increased mRNA expression of IL-28A and IL-29. Moreover, IL-28A serum protein levels were elevated in HCV patients. In a murine model of viral hepatitis, IL-28 expression was significantly increased.
IL-28A and IL-29 are up-regulated in HCV patients and are similarly effective in inducing antiviral genes and inhibiting HCV replication. In contrast to IL-29, IL-28A is a potent gene repressor. Both IFN-λs may have therapeutic potential in the treatment of chronic HCV.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood-borne pathogen and a major cause of liver disease worldwide. Gene expression profiling was used to characterize the transcriptional response to HCV H77c infection. Evidence is presented for activation of innate antiviral signaling pathways as well as induction of lipid metabolism genes, which may contribute to oxidative stress. We also found that infection of chimeric SCID/Alb-uPA mice by HCV led to signs of hepatocyte damage and apoptosis, which in patients plays a role in activation of stellate cells, recruitment of macrophages, and the subsequent development of fibrosis. Infection of chimeric mice with HCV H77c also led an inflammatory response characterized by infiltration of monocytes and macrophages. There was increased apoptosis in HCV-infected human hepatocytes in H77c-infected mice but not in mice inoculated with a replication incompetent H77c mutant. Moreover, TUNEL reactivity was restricted to HCV-infected hepatocytes, but an increase in FAS expression was not. To gain insight into the factors contributing specific apoptosis of HCV infected cells, immunohistological and confocal microscopy using antibodies for key apoptotic mediators was done. We found that the ER chaperone BiP/GRP78 was increased in HCV-infected cells as was activated BAX, but the activator of ER stress–mediated apoptosis CHOP was not. We found that overall levels of NF-κB and BCL-xL were increased by infection; however, within an infected liver, comparison of infected cells to uninfected cells indicated both NF-κB and BCL-xL were decreased in HCV-infected cells. We conclude that HCV contributes to hepatocyte damage and apoptosis by inducing stress and pro-apoptotic BAX while preventing the induction of anti-apoptotic NF-κB and BCL-xL, thus sensitizing hepatocytes to apoptosis.
Hepatitis C virus is a common cause of liver disease worldwide. The details of how HCV causes liver disease are not well understood. It has been thought that HCV infection does not kill liver cells directly, but indirectly by stimulating the immune system to kill HCV-infected liver cells. In this study we have used a mouse model that supports HCV infection and replication. These mice do not have an adaptive immune system. Despite the lack of an adaptive immune system, we have shown that HCV infection still leads to the death of infected liver cells. This study provides new insight into how HCV damages the liver in chronic HCV carriers.
We describe the development of a selectable, bi-cistronic subgenomic replicon for bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) in Huh-7 cells, similar to that established for hepatitis C virus (HCV). The selection marker and reporter (Luc-Ubi-Neo) in the BVDV replicon was fused with the amino-terminal protease Npro, and expression of the nonstructural proteins (NS3 to NS5B) was driven by an encephalomyocarditis virus internal ribosome entry site. This BVDV replicon allows us to compare RNA replication of these two related viruses in a similar cellular background and to identify antiviral molecules specific for HCV RNA replication. The BVDV replicon showed similar sensitivity as the HCV replicon to interferons (alpha, beta, and gamma) and 2′-β-C-methyl ribonucleoside inhibitors. Known nonnucleoside inhibitor molecules specific for either HCV or BVDV can be easily distinguished by using the parallel replicon systems. The HCV replicon has been shown to block, via the NS3/4A serine protease, Sendai virus-induced activation of interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3), a key antiviral signaling molecule. Similar suppression of IRF-3-mediated responses was also observed with the Huh-7-BVDV replicon but was independent of NS3/4A protease activity. Instead, the amino-terminal cysteine protease Npro of BVDV appears to be, at least partly, responsible for suppressing IRF-3 activation induced by Sendai virus infection. This result suggests that different viruses, including those closely related, may have developed unique mechanisms for evading host antiviral responses. The parallel BVDV and HCV replicon systems provide robust counterscreens to distinguish viral specificity of small-molecule inhibitors of viral replication and to study the interactions of the viral replication machinery with the host cell innate immune system.
In order to elucidate how Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) interacts with polarized hepatocytes in vivo and how HCV-induced alterations in cellular function contribute to HCV-associated liver disease, a more physiologically relevant hepatocyte culture model is needed. As such, NASA-engineered three-dimensional (3-D) rotating wall vessel (RWV) bioreactors were used in effort to promote differentiation of HCV-permissive Huh7 hepatoma cells.
When cultured in the RWV, Huh7 cells became morphologically and transcriptionally distinct from more standard Huh7 two-dimensional (2-D) monolayers. Specifically, RWV-cultured Huh7 cells formed complex, multilayered 3-D aggregates in which Phase I and Phase II xenobiotic drug metabolism genes, as well as hepatocyte-specific transcripts (HNF4α, Albumin, TTR and α1AT), were upregulated compared to 2-D cultured Huh7 cells. Immunofluorescence analysis revealed that these HCV-permissive 3-D cultured Huh7 cells were more polarized than their 2D counterparts with the expression of HCV receptors, cell adhesion and tight junction markers (CD81, scavenger receptor class B member 1, claudin-1, occludin, ZO-1, β-Catenin and E-Cadherin) significantly increased and exhibiting apical, lateral and/or basolateral localization.
These findings show that when cultured in 3-D, Huh7 cells acquire a more differentiated hepatocyte-like phenotype. Importantly, we show that these 3D cultures are highly permissive for HCV infection, thus providing an opportunity to study HCV entry and the effects of HCV infection on host cell function in a more physiologically relevant cell culture system.
Arbidol (ARB) is an antiviral compound that was originally proven effective for treatment of influenza and several other respiratory viral infections. The broad spectrum of ARB anti-viral activity led us to evaluate its effect on hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and replication in cell culture. Long-term ARB treatment of Huh7 cells chronically replicating a genomic length genotype 1b replicon resulted in sustained reduction of viral RNA and protein expression, and eventually cured HCV infected cells. Pre-treatment of human hepatoma Huh7.5.1 cells with 15 μM ARB for 24 to 48 hours inhibited acute infection with JFH-1 virus by up to 1000-fold. The inhibitory effect of ARB on HCV was not due to generalized cytotoxicity, nor to augmentation of IFN antiviral signaling pathways, but involved impaired virus-mediated membrane fusion. ARB's affinity for membranes may inhibit several aspects of the HCV lifecycle that are membrane-dependent.
Huh7 cells constitute a permissive cell line for cell culture of hepatitis C virus (HCV) particles. However, our Huh7 line shows limited permissiveness for HCV. Thus, in this study we set out to determine which host factors are important for conferring permissiveness. To analyze the limited permissiveness of our Huh7 cells, 70 clones were obtained after single-cell cloning of parental Huh7 cells. The cloned Huh7 cells exhibited various levels of HCV pseudoparticles and JFH-1 virus infection efficiency, and some clones were not permissive. A subgenomic replicon was then transfected into the cloned Huh7 cells. While the replication efficiencies differed among the cloned Huh7 cells, these efficiencies did not correlate with infectious permissibility. Flow cytometry showed that CD81, scavenger receptor class B type I, and low-density-lipoprotein receptor expression on the cell surfaces of the Huh7 clones differed among the clones. Interestingly, we found that all of the permissive cell clones expressed CD81 while the nonpermissive cell clones did not. To confirm the importance of CD81 expression for HCV permissiveness, CD81 was then transiently and stably expressed on a nonpermissive Huh7 cell clone, which was consequently restored to HCV infection permissiveness. Furthermore, permissiveness was down-regulated upon transfection of CD81 silencing RNA into a CD81-positive cell clone. In conclusion, CD81 expression is an important determinant of HCV permissiveness of Huh7 cell clones harboring different characteristics.
Cell culture systems have been established, where a hepatitis C virus (HCV) subgenomic replicon was efficiently replicated and maintained for a long period. It is known that HCV contains proteins which interact with host cell proteins.
To see whether a HCV RNA replicon can interact in the same way with host cell proteins, HCV RNA replicon was transfected in Huh7 cells. In most infected cells, HCV replicon is present in the cytoplasm; however, in a minority of HCV-infected cells, both the cytoplasm and the nucleus or the nucleus on its own is positive for NS3. The presence of NS3 in the nuclei of Huh7 cells indicates that the protein may play a role other than in virus replication, such as in persistence of HCV infection.
Hepatitis C Virus
Increasing evidence suggests that miRNAs have a profound impact on host defense to Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and clinical outcome of standard HCV therapy. In this study, we investigated modulation of miRNA expression in Huh7.5 hepatoma cells by HCV infection and in vitro interferon-αtreatment.
MiRNA expression profiling was determined using Human miRNA TaqMan® Arrays followed by rigorous pairwise statistical analysis. MiRNA inhibitors assessed the functional effects of miRNAs on HCV replication. Computational analysis predicted anti-correlated mRNA targets and their involvement in host cellular pathways. Quantitative RTPCR confirmed the expression of predicted miRNA-mRNA correlated pairs in HCV-infected Huh7.5 cells with and without interferon-α.
Seven miRNAs (miR-30b, miR-30c, miR-130a, miR-192, miR-301, miR-324-5p, and miR-565) were down-regulated in HCV-infected Huh7.5 cells (p<0.05) and subsequently up-regulated following interferon-α treatment (p<0.01). The miR-30(a-d) cluster and miR-130a/301 and their putative mRNA targets were predicted to be associated with cellular pathways that involve Hepatitis C virus entry, propagation and host response to viral infection.
HCV differentially modulates miRNAs to facilitate entry and early establishment of infection in vitro. Interferon-α appears to neutralize the effect of HCV replication on miRNA regulation thus providing a potential mechanism of action in eradicating HCV from hepatocytes.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) subgenomic replicon is the primary tool for evaluating the activity of anti-HCV compounds in drug discovery research. Despite the prevalence of HCV genotype 1a (∼70% of U.S. HCV patients), few genotype 1a reporter replicon cell lines have been described; this is presumably due to the low replication capacity of such constructs in available Huh-7 cells. In this report, we describe the selection of highly permissive Huh-7 cell lines that support robust replication of genotype 1a subgenomic replicons harboring luciferase reporter genes. These novel cell lines support the replication of multiple genotype 1a replicons (including the H77 and SF9 strains), are significantly more permissive to genotype 1a HCV replication than parental Huh7-Lunet cells, and maintain stable genotype 1a replication levels suitable for antiviral screening. We found that the sensitivity of genotype 1a luciferase replicons to known antivirals was highly consistent between individual genotype 1a clonal cell lines but could vary significantly between genotypes 1a and 1b. Sequencing of the nonstructural region of 12 stable replicon cell clones suggested that the enhanced permissivity is likely due to cellular component(s) in these new cell lines rather than the evolution of novel adaptive mutations in the replicons. These new reagents will enhance drug discovery efforts targeting genotype 1a and facilitate the profiling of compound activity among different HCV genotypes and subtypes.
Treatment with antimetabolites results in chemically induced low nucleoside triphosphate pools and cell cycle arrest in exponentially growing cells. Since steady-state levels of hepatitis C virus (HCV) replicon RNA were shown to be dependent on exponential growth of Huh-7 cells, the effects of antimetabolites for several nucleoside biosynthesis pathways on cell growth and HCV RNA levels were investigated. A specific anti-HCV replicon effect was defined as (i) minimal interference with the exponential cell growth, (ii) minimal reduction in cellular host RNA levels, and (iii) reduction of the HCV RNA copy number per cell compared to that of the untreated control. While most antimetabolites caused a cytostatic effect on cell growth, only inhibitors of the de novo pyrimidine ribonucleoside biosynthesis mimicked observations seen in confluent replicon cells, i.e., cytostasis combined with a sharp decrease in replicon copy number per cell. These results suggest that high levels of CTP and UTP are critical parameters for maintaining the steady-state level replication of HCV replicon in Huh-7 cells.
β-d-N4-Hydroxycytidine (NHC) was found to have selective anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) activity in the HCV replicon system (clone A). The intracellular metabolism of tritiated NHC was investigated in the HCV replicon system, Huh-7 cells, HepG2 cells, and primary human hepatocytes. Incubation of cells with 10 μM radiolabeled NHC demonstrated extensive and rapid phosphorylation in all liver cells. Besides the 5′-mono, -di-, and -triphosphate metabolites of NHC, other metabolites were characterized. These included cytidine and uridine mono-, di-, and triphosphates. UTP was the predominant early metabolite in Huh-7 cells and primary human hepatocytes, suggesting deamination of NHC as the primary catabolic pathway. The intracellular half-lives of radiolabeled NHC-triphosphate and of CTP and UTP derived from NHC incubation in Huh-7 cells were calculated to be 3.0 ± 1.3, 10.4 ± 3.3, and 13.2 ± 3.5 h (means ± standard deviations), respectively. Studies using monkey and human whole blood demonstrated more-rapid deamination and oxidation in monkey cells than in human cells, suggesting that NHC may not persist long enough in plasma to be delivered to liver cells.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is remarkably efficient at establishing persistent infection and is associated with the development of chronic liver disease. Impaired T cell responses facilitate and maintain persistent HCV infection. Importantly, CD4+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) act by dampening antiviral T cell responses in HCV infection. The mechanism for induction and/or expansion of Tregs in HCV is unknown.
HCV-expressing hepatocytes were used to determine if hepatocytes are able to induce Tregs. The infected liver environment was modeled by establishing the co-culture of the human hepatoma cell line, Huh7.5, containing the full-length genome of HCV genotype 1a (Huh7.5-FL) with activated CD4+ T cells. The production of IFN-γ was diminished following co-culture with Huh7.5-FL as compared to controls. Notably, CD4+ T cells in contact with Huh7.5-FL expressed an increased level of the Treg markers, CD25, Foxp3, CTLA-4 and LAP, and were able to suppress the proliferation of effector T cells. Importantly, HCV+ hepatocytes upregulated the production of TGF-β and blockade of TGF-β abrogated Treg phenotype and function.
These results demonstrate that HCV infected hepatocytes are capable of directly inducing Tregs development and may contribute to impaired host T cell responses.
The Hepatitis C virus (HCV), a member of the family Flaviviridae, is a major cause of chronic liver disease. Patients are currently treated with alpha interferon (IFN-α) that is given alone or in combination with ribavirin. Unfortunately, this treatment is ineffective in eliminating the virus in a large proportion of individuals. IFN-induced antiviral activities have been intensively studied in the HCV replicon system. It was found that both IFN-α and IFN-γ inhibit HCV replicons, but the underlying mechanisms have not yet been identified. Of note is that nearly all of these studies were performed with the human hepatoma cell line Huh-7. Here, we report that genotypes 1b and 2a replicons also replicate in the human hepatoblastoma cell line HuH6. Similar to what has been described for Huh-7 cells, we observed that efficient HCV replication in HuH6 cells depends on the presence of cell culture-adaptive mutations and the permissiveness of the host cell. However, three major differences exist: in HuH6 cells, viral replication is (i) independent from ongoing cell proliferation, (ii) less sensitive to certain antiviral compounds, and (iii) highly resistant to IFN-γ. The latter is not due to a general defect in IFN signaling, as IFN-γ induces the nuclear translocation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1), the enhanced transcription of several IFN-regulated genes, and the inhibition of unrelated viruses such as influenza A virus and Semliki Forest virus. Taken together, the results establish HuH6 replicon cells as a valuable tool for IFN studies and for the evaluation of antiviral compounds.