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1.  Hepatitis C Virus Induces CD81 and Claudin-1 Endocytosis 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(8):4305-4316.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) leads to progressive liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma. Current treatments are only partially effective, and new therapies targeting viral and host pathways are required. Virus entry into a host cell provides a conserved target for therapeutic intervention. Tetraspanin CD81, scavenger receptor class B member I, and the tight-junction proteins claudin-1 and occludin have been identified as essential entry receptors. Limited information is available on the role of receptor trafficking in HCV entry. We demonstrate here that anti-CD81 antibodies inhibit HCV infection at late times after virus internalization, suggesting a role for intracellular CD81 in HCV infection. Several tetraspanins have been reported to internalize via motifs in their C-terminal cytoplasmic domains; however, CD81 lacks such motifs, leading several laboratories to suggest a limited role for CD81 endocytosis in HCV entry. We demonstrate CD81 internalization via a clathrin- and dynamin-dependent process, independent of its cytoplasmic domain, suggesting a role for associated partner proteins in regulating CD81 trafficking. Live cell imaging demonstrates CD81 and claudin-1 coendocytosis and fusion with Rab5 expressing endosomes, supporting a role for this receptor complex in HCV internalization. Receptor-specific antibodies and HCV particles increase CD81 and claudin-1 endocytosis, supporting a model wherein HCV stimulates receptor trafficking to promote particle internalization.
PMCID: PMC3318669  PMID: 22318146
2.  In silico directed mutagenesis identifies the CD81/claudin-1 hepatitis C virus receptor interface 
Cellular Microbiology  2012;14(12):1892-1903.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) entry is dependent on host cell molecules tetraspanin CD81, scavenger receptor BI and tight junction proteins claudin-1 and occludin. We previously reported a role for CD81/claudin-1 receptor complexes in HCV entry; however, the molecular mechanism(s) driving association between the receptors is unknown. We explored the molecular interface between CD81 and claudin-1 using a combination of bioinformatic sequence-based modelling, site-directed mutagenesis and Fluorescent Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) imaging methodologies. Structural modelling predicts the first extracellular loop of claudin-1 to have a flexible beta conformation and identifies a motif between amino acids 62–66 that interacts with CD81 residues T149, E152 and T153. FRET studies confirm a role for these CD81 residues in claudin-1 association and HCV infection. Importantly, mutation of these CD81 residues has minimal impact on protein conformation or HCVglycoprotein binding, highlighting a new functional domain of CD81 that is essential for virus entry.
PMCID: PMC3549482  PMID: 22897233
3.  Receptor Complementation and Mutagenesis Reveal SR-BI as an Essential HCV Entry Factor and Functionally Imply Its Intra- and Extra-Cellular Domains 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(2):e1000310.
HCV entry into cells is a multi-step and slow process. It is believed that the initial capture of HCV particles by glycosaminoglycans and/or lipoprotein receptors is followed by coordinated interactions with the scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI), a major receptor of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the CD81 tetraspanin, and the tight junction protein Claudin-1, ultimately leading to uptake and cellular penetration of HCV via low-pH endosomes. Several reports have indicated that HDL promotes HCV entry through interaction with SR-BI. This pathway remains largely elusive, although it was shown that HDL neither associates with HCV particles nor modulates HCV binding to SR-BI. In contrast to CD81 and Claudin-1, the importance of SR-BI has only been addressed indirectly because of lack of cells in which functional complementation assays with mutant receptors could be performed. Here we identified for the first time two cell types that supported HCVpp and HCVcc entry upon ectopic SR-BI expression. Remarkably, the undetectable expression of SR-BI in rat hepatoma cells allowed unambiguous investigation of human SR-BI functions during HCV entry. By expressing different SR-BI mutants in either cell line, our results revealed features of SR-BI intracellular domains that influence HCV infectivity without affecting receptor binding and stimulation of HCV entry induced by HDL/SR-BI interaction. Conversely, we identified positions of SR-BI ectodomain that, by altering HCV binding, inhibit entry. Finally, we characterized alternative ectodomain determinants that, by reducing SR-BI cholesterol uptake and efflux functions, abolish HDL-mediated infection-enhancement. Altogether, we demonstrate that SR-BI is an essential HCV entry factor. Moreover, our results highlight specific SR-BI determinants required during HCV entry and physiological lipid transfer functions hijacked by HCV to favor infection.
Author Summary
More than 180 million people are chronically infected by hepatitis C virus (HCV), a leading cause of liver failure and cancer, stimulating the need to fully define the biology of HCV infection for developing novel and effective therapeutics. During the first steps of infection, the virus is taken up and penetrates hepatocytes. HCV entry is thought to be a coordinated multi-step process mediated by specific factors, including CD81, Claudin-1, and the scavenger receptor BI (SR-BI). Whereas the involvement of CD81 and Claudin-1 was demonstrated by rendering susceptible cells that are otherwise refractory, SR-BI complementation assays were lacking, raising questions as to its functions during HCV entry. Here, we identify one hepatoma rat cell line, in which SR-BI complementation assay and targeted mutagenesis could be performed. We therefore demonstrate that SR-BI is an essential HCV entry factor. Our results shed light on SR-BI intracellular domain functions in HCV entry, and, further, emphasize the remarkable capacity of HCV to hijack the lipid transfer function of SR-BI, hence favoring infection.
PMCID: PMC2636890  PMID: 19229312
4.  Production, Purification and Characterization of Recombinant, Full-Length Human Claudin-1 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64517.
The transmembrane domain proteins of the claudin superfamily are the major structural components of cellular tight junctions. One family member, claudin-1, also associates with tetraspanin CD81 as part of a receptor complex that is essential for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection of the liver. To understand the molecular basis of claudin-1/CD81 association we previously produced and purified milligram quantities of functional, full-length CD81, which binds a soluble form of HCV E2 glycoprotein (sE2). Here we report the production, purification and characterization of claudin-1. Both yeast membrane-bound and detergent-extracted, purified claudin-1 were antigenic and recognized by specific antibodies. Analytical ultracentrifugation demonstrated that extraction with n-octyl-β-d-glucopyranoside yielded monodispersed, dimeric pools of claudin-1 while extraction with profoldin-8 or n-decylphosphocholine yielded a dynamic mixture of claudin-1 oligomers. Neither form bound sE2 in line with literature expectations, while further functional analysis was hampered by the finding that incorporation of claudin-1 into proteoliposomes rendered them intractable to study. Dynamic light scattering demonstrated that claudin-1 oligomers associate with CD81 in vitro in a defined molar ratio of 1∶2 and that complex formation was enhanced by the presence of cholesteryl hemisuccinate. Attempts to assay the complex biologically were limited by our finding that claudin-1 affects the properties of proteoliposomes. We conclude that recombinant, correctly-folded, full-length claudin-1 can be produced in yeast membranes, that it can be extracted in different oligomeric forms that do not bind sE2 and that a dynamic preparation can form a specific complex with CD81 in vitro in the absence of any other cellular components. These findings pave the way for the structural characterization of claudin-1 alone and in complex with CD81.
PMCID: PMC3660353  PMID: 23704991
5.  The Tight Junction-Associated Protein Occludin Is Required for a Postbinding Step in Hepatitis C Virus Entry and Infection▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(16):8012-8020.
The precise mechanisms regulating hepatitis C virus (HCV) entry into hepatic cells remain unknown. However, several cell surface proteins have been identified as entry factors for this virus. Of these molecules, claudin-1, a tight junction (TJ) component, is considered a coreceptor required for HCV entry. Recently, we have demonstrated that HCV envelope glycoproteins (HCVgp) promote structural and functional TJ alterations. Additionally, we have shown that the intracellular interaction between viral E2 glycoprotein and occludin, another TJ-associated protein, could be the cause of the mislocalization of TJ proteins. Herein we demonstrated, by using cell culture-derived HCV particles (HCVcc), that interference of occludin expression markedly reduced HCV infection. Furthermore, our results with HCV pseudotyped particles indicated that occludin, but not other TJ-associated proteins, such as junctional adhesion molecule A or zonula occludens protein 1, was required for HCV entry. Using HCVcc, we demonstrated that occludin did not play an essential role in the initial attachment of HCV to target cells. Surface protein labeling experiments showed that both expression levels and cell surface localization of HCV (co)receptors CD81, scavenger receptor class B type I, and claudin-1 were not affected upon occludin knockdown. In addition, immunofluorescence confocal analysis showed that occludin interference did not affect subcellular distribution of the HCV (co)receptors analyzed. However, HCVgp fusion-associated events were altered after occludin silencing. In summary, we propose that occludin plays an essential role in HCV infection and probably affects late entry events. This observation may provide new insights into HCV infection and related pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2715771  PMID: 19515778
6.  RNA Interference and Single Particle Tracking Analysis of Hepatitis C Virus Endocytosis 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(12):e1000702.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) enters hepatocytes following a complex set of receptor interactions, culminating in internalization via clathrin-mediated endocytosis. However, aside from receptors, little is known about the cellular molecular requirements for infectious HCV entry. Therefore, we analyzed a siRNA library that targets 140 cellular membrane trafficking genes to identify host genes required for infectious HCV production and HCV pseudoparticle entry. This approach identified 16 host cofactors of HCV entry that function primarily in clathrin-mediated endocytosis, including components of the clathrin endocytosis machinery, actin polymerization, receptor internalization and sorting, and endosomal acidification. We next developed single particle tracking analysis of highly infectious fluorescent HCV particles to examine the co-trafficking of HCV virions with cellular cofactors of endocytosis. We observe multiple, sequential interactions of HCV virions with the actin cytoskeleton, including retraction along filopodia, actin nucleation during internalization, and migration of internalized particles along actin stress fibers. HCV co-localizes with clathrin and the ubiquitin ligase c-Cbl prior to internalization. Entering HCV particles are associated with the receptor molecules CD81 and the tight junction protein, claudin-1; however, HCV-claudin-1 interactions were not restricted to Huh-7.5 cell-cell junctions. Surprisingly, HCV internalization generally occurred outside of Huh-7.5 cell-cell junctions, which may reflect the poorly polarized nature of current HCV cell culture models. Following internalization, HCV particles transport with GFP-Rab5a positive endosomes, which is consistent with trafficking to the early endosome. This study presents technical advances for imaging HCV entry, in addition to identifying new host cofactors of HCV infection, some of which may be antiviral targets.
Author Summary
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) chronically infects 130 million people and is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer. The current antiviral therapy of pegylated interferon-2 alfa + ribavirin is successful in only half of treated patients. This has led to an intensive effort to design improved therapeutic strategies. The identification of cellular cofactors of HCV infection greatly expands the pool of potential targets for drug design. In this paper, we combine RNA interference analysis of HCV endocytosis with the development of live cell imaging of highly infectious HCV particles. We identify 16 host cofactors of HCV entry, most of which function in sequential stages of clathrin-mediated endocytosis. We observe the trafficking of fluorescent HCV particles with these cellular cofactors and their related pathways, including the actin cytoskeleton, known receptors CD81 and the tight junction protein claudin-1, clathrin, an E3 ubiquitin ligase, and early endosomes. Surprisingly, given the role of tight junction proteins as HCV entry factors, virion entry generally occurred outside of cell-cell junctions. This paper identifies novel host targets for therapeutic development, describes techniques to image HCV entry, and provides insights into HCV-cell interactions in the entry process.
PMCID: PMC2790617  PMID: 20041214
7.  The SR-BI Partner PDZK1 Facilitates Hepatitis C Virus Entry 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(10):e1001130.
Entry of hepatitis C virus (HCV) into hepatocytes is a multi-step process that involves a number of different host cell factors. Following initial engagement with glycosaminoglycans and the low-density lipoprotein receptor, it is thought that HCV entry proceeds via interactions with the tetraspanin CD81, scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI), and the tight-junction proteins claudin-1 (CLDN1) and occludin (OCLN), culminating in clathrin-dependent endocytosis of HCV particles and their pH-dependent fusion with endosomal membranes. Physiologically, SR-BI is the major receptor for high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in the liver, where its expression is primarily controlled at the post-transcriptional level by its interaction with the scaffold protein PDZK1. However, the importance of interaction with PDZK1 to the involvement of SR-BI in HCV entry is unclear. Here we demonstrate that stable shRNA-knockdown of PDZK1 expression in human hepatoma cells significantly reduces their susceptibility to HCV infection, and that this effect can be reversed by overexpression of full length PDZK1 but not the first PDZ domain of PDZK1 alone. Furthermore, we found that overexpression of a green fluorescent protein chimera of the cytoplasmic carboxy-terminus of SR-BI (amino acids 479–509) in Huh-7 cells resulted in its interaction with PDZK1 and a reduced susceptibility to HCV infection. In contrast a similar chimera lacking the final amino acid of SR-BI (amino acids 479–508) failed to interact with PDZK1 and did not inhibit HCV infection. Taken together these results indicate an indirect involvement of PDZK1 in HCV entry via its ability to interact with SR-BI and enhance its activity as an HCV entry factor.
Author Summary
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major cause of serious liver disease, with approximately 170 million people infected worldwide. Although significant advances have been made in the characterization and development of novel therapeutics to combat HCV infection, there is still a great need for an improved understanding of the HCV lifecycle and potential future targets of antiviral therapy. HCV entry into hepatocytes involves numerous plasma membrane proteins including CD81, scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI), claudin-1 and occludin. Although these proteins may comprise the complete set of essential HCV entry factors, the secondary factors that influence the co-ordinated involvement of these proteins in HCV entry remain to be determined. Here we identify the SR-BI partner protein PDZK1 as an indirect regulator of HCV entry. Our results indicate that binding of PDZK1 to the cytoplasmic carboxy-terminus of SR-BI influences the receptor's involvement in HCV entry such that disruption of this interaction may represent a future target of therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC2951368  PMID: 20949066
8.  Three-dimensional Huh7 cell culture system for the study of Hepatitis C virus infection 
Virology Journal  2009;6:103.
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.
PMCID: PMC2719612  PMID: 19604376
9.  Effect of Cell Polarization on Hepatitis C Virus Entry▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;82(1):461-470.
The primary reservoir for hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication in vivo is believed to be hepatocytes within the liver. Three host cell molecules have been reported to be important entry factors for receptors for HCV: the tetraspanin CD81, scavenger receptor BI (SR-BI), and the tight-junction (TJ) protein claudin 1 (CLDN1). The recent discovery of a TJ protein as a critical coreceptor highlighted the importance of studying the effect(s) of TJ formation and cell polarization on HCV entry. The colorectal adenocarcinoma Caco-2 cell line forms polarized monolayers containing functional TJs and was found to express the CD81, SR-BI, and CLDN1 proteins. Viral receptor expression levels increased upon polarization, and CLDN1 relocalized from the apical pole of the lateral cell membrane to the lateral cell-cell junction and basolateral domains. In contrast, expression and localization of the TJ proteins ZO-1 and occludin 1 were unchanged upon polarization. HCV infected polarized and nonpolarized Caco-2 cells to comparable levels, and entry was neutralized by anti-E2 monoclonal antibodies, demonstrating glycoprotein-dependent entry. HCV pseudoparticle infection and recombinant HCV E1E2 glycoprotein interaction with polarized Caco-2 cells occurred predominantly at the apical surface. Disruption of TJs significantly increased HCV entry. These data support a model where TJs provide a physical barrier for viral access to receptors expressed on lateral and basolateral cellular domains.
PMCID: PMC2224355  PMID: 17959672
10.  Polarization Restricts Hepatitis C Virus Entry into HepG2 Hepatoma Cells▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(12):6211-6221.
The primary reservoir for hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication is believed to be hepatocytes, which are highly polarized with tight junctions (TJ) separating their basolateral and apical domains. HepG2 cells develop polarity over time, resulting in the formation and remodeling of bile canalicular (BC) structures. HepG2 cells expressing CD81 provide a model system to study the effects of hepatic polarity on HCV infection. We found an inverse association between HepG2-CD81 polarization and HCV pseudoparticle entry. As HepG2 cells polarize, discrete pools of claudin-1 (CLDN1) at the TJ and basal/lateral membranes develop, consistent with the pattern of receptor staining observed in liver tissue. The TJ and nonjunctional pools of CLDN1 show an altered association with CD81 and localization in response to the PKA antagonist Rp-8-Br-cyclic AMPs (cAMPs). Rp-8-Br-cAMPs reduced CLDN1 expression at the basal membrane and inhibited HCV infection, supporting a model where the nonjunctional pools of CLDN1 have a role in HCV entry. Treatment of HepG2 cells with proinflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor alpha and gamma interferon, perturbed TJ integrity but had minimal effect(s) on cellular polarity and HCV infection, suggesting that TJ integrity does not limit HCV entry into polarized HepG2 cells. In contrast, activation of PKC with phorbol ester reduced TJ integrity, ablated HepG2 polarity, and stimulated HCV entry. Overall, these data show that complex hepatocyte-like polarity alters CLDN1 localization and limits HCV entry, suggesting that agents which disrupt hepatocyte polarity may promote HCV infection and transmission within the liver.
PMCID: PMC2687400  PMID: 19357163
11.  Hepatitis C virus receptors claudin-1 and occludin after liver transplantation and influence on early viral kinetics 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2011;53(5):1436-1445.
Liver transplantation (LT) is a unique model to study HCV entry into hepatocytes. Recent in vitro studies suggest significant changes in the expression of the HCV receptors claudin-1 and occludin after HCV infection. Our aims were: 1) to characterize claudin-1 and occludin expression in grafts from LT recipients and 2) to explore their potential influence on early HCV kinetics and their changes after HCV infection.
Patients and methods
We included 42 HCV-infected LT recipients and 19 uninfected controls. Claudin-1 and occludin were detected in paraffin-embedded liver biopsies obtained during reperfusion, 3 and 12 months after LT. HCV receptors were characterized by confocal immunofluorescence microscopy; quantification and colocalization studies were performed with dedicated software.
Claudin-1 and occludin expression were restricted to the apical pole of hepatocytes. There was a significant correlation between the amount of SR-B1 at the time of reperfusion and the HCV-RNA decay during the first 24 hours following LT (r= 0.6, p= 0.004). Similarly, there was significant correlation between the levels of claudin and occludin and the slope of HCV-RNA increase during the first week after LT (r= 0.63, p = 0.002). Occludin and claudin-1 levels increased significantly 12 months after LT (p = 0.03 and p= 0.007, respectively). The expression pattern of both proteins, however, remained unchanged, colocalizing strongly (60%–94%) at the apical membrane of hepatocytes.
HCV receptor levels at the time of LT seem to modulate early HCV kinetics. Hepatitis C recurrence after LT was associated with increased levels of claudin-1 and occludin in the hepatocyte cell membrane, though it did not alter their localization within the tight junctions.
PMCID: PMC3082584  PMID: 21294144
confocal microscopy; real-time PCR; canalicular pole; hepatocyte; tight-junctions
12.  Recent Advances in Hepatitis C Virus Cell Entry 
Viruses  2010;2(3):692-709.
More than 170 million patients worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Prevalence rates range from 0.5% in Northern European countries to 28% in some areas of Egypt. HCV is hepatotropic, and in many countries chronic hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver disease including fibrosis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. HCV persists in 50–85% of infected patients, and once chronic infection is established, spontaneous clearance is rare. HCV is a member of the Flaviviridae family, in which it forms its own genus. Many lines of evidence suggest that the HCV life cycle displays many differences to that of other Flaviviridae family members. Some of these differences may be due to the close interaction of HCV with its host’s lipid and particular triglyceride metabolism in the liver, which may explain why the virus can be found in association with lipoproteins in serum of infected patients. This review focuses on the molecular events underlying the HCV cell entry process and the respective roles of cellular co-factors that have been implied in these events. These include, among others, the lipoprotein receptors low density lipoprotein receptor and scavenger receptor BI, the tight junction factors occludin and claudin-1 as well as the tetraspanin CD81. We discuss the roles of these cellular factors in HCV cell entry and how association of HCV with lipoproteins may modulate the cell entry process.
PMCID: PMC3185649  PMID: 21994653
hepatitis C virus; cell entry
13.  Adaptation of Hepatitis C Virus to Mouse CD81 Permits Infection of Mouse Cells in the Absence of Human Entry Factors 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(7):e1000978.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) naturally infects only humans and chimpanzees. The determinants responsible for this narrow species tropism are not well defined. Virus cell entry involves human scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI), CD81, claudin-1 and occludin. Among these, at least CD81 and occludin are utilized in a highly species-specific fashion, thus contributing to the narrow host range of HCV. We adapted HCV to mouse CD81 and identified three envelope glycoprotein mutations which together enhance infection of cells with mouse or other rodent receptors approximately 100-fold. These mutations enhanced interaction with human CD81 and increased exposure of the binding site for CD81 on the surface of virus particles. These changes were accompanied by augmented susceptibility of adapted HCV to neutralization by E2-specific antibodies indicative of major conformational changes of virus-resident E1/E2-complexes. Neutralization with CD81, SR-BI- and claudin-1-specific antibodies and knock down of occludin expression by siRNAs indicate that the adapted virus remains dependent on these host factors but apparently utilizes CD81, SR-BI and occludin with increased efficiency. Importantly, adapted E1/E2 complexes mediate HCV cell entry into mouse cells in the absence of human entry factors. These results further our knowledge of HCV receptor interactions and indicate that three glycoprotein mutations are sufficient to overcome the species-specific restriction of HCV cell entry into mouse cells. Moreover, these findings should contribute to the development of an immunocompetent small animal model fully permissive to HCV.
Author Summary
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects only humans and chimpanzees, which has hampered development of suitable animal models. The inability of HCV to penetrate non-human cells is primarily due to inefficient usage of non-human CD81 and occludin. In this study we adapted HCV to mouse CD81. Efficient utilization of mouse CD81 is conferred by a combination of three mutations in the viral glycoproteins. These changes also permit entry via rat or hamster CD81, and lower viral dependence on additional HCV entry factors. Strikingly, mouse CD81 adapted HCV glycoproteins mediate entry into mouse cells in the absence of human entry factors. The adaptive mutations are not resident in viral domains implicated in direct CD81 binding. Nevertheless, they enhance binding to human CD81, increase susceptibility to different neutralizing antibodies and facilitate induction of viral cell fusion by low pH. This suggests that structural changes accompanied by exposure of the CD81 binding site and neutralizing epitopes have “unlocked” the viral envelope protein complex facilitating infection through non-human entry factors. These results highlight mechanisms of HCV receptor usage and tropism. They also demonstrate that HCV can be adapted to using non-human host factors, which may ultimately facilitate the development of small animal models.
PMCID: PMC2895659  PMID: 20617177
14.  Different Requirements for Scavenger Receptor Class B Type I in Hepatitis C Virus Cell-Free versus Cell-to-Cell Transmission 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(15):8282-8293.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is believed to initially infect the liver through the basolateral side of hepatocytes, where it engages attachment factors and the coreceptors CD81 and scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI). Active transport toward the apical side brings the virus in close proximity of additional entry factors, the tight junction molecules claudin-1 and occludin. HCV is also thought to propagate via cell-to-cell spread, which allows highly efficient virion delivery to neighboring cells. In this study, we compared an adapted HCV genome, clone 2, characterized by superior cell-to cell spread, to its parental genome, J6/JFH-1, with the goal of elucidating the molecular mechanisms of HCV cell-to-cell transmission. We show that CD81 levels on the donor cells influence the efficiency of cell-to-cell spread and CD81 transfer between neighboring cells correlates with the capacity of target cells to become infected. Spread of J6/JFH-1 was blocked by anti-SR-BI antibody or in cells knocked down for SR-BI, suggesting a direct role for this receptor in HCV cell-to-cell transmission. In contrast, clone 2 displayed a significantly reduced dependence on SR-BI for lateral spread. Mutations in E1 and E2 responsible for the enhanced cell-to-cell spread phenotype of clone 2 rendered cell-free virus more susceptible to antibody-mediated neutralization. Our results indicate that although HCV can lose SR-BI dependence for cell-to-cell spread, vulnerability to neutralizing antibodies may limit this evolutionary option in vivo. Combination therapies targeting both the HCV glycoproteins and SR-BI may therefore hold promise for effective control of HCV dissemination.
PMCID: PMC3719822  PMID: 23698298
15.  Hepatoma Cell Density Promotes Claudin-1 and Scavenger Receptor BI Expression and Hepatitis C Virus Internalization▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(23):12407-12414.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) entry occurs via a pH- and clathrin-dependent endocytic pathway and requires a number of cellular factors, including CD81, the tight-junction proteins claudin 1 (CLDN1) and occludin, and scavenger receptor class B member I (SR-BI). HCV tropism is restricted to the liver, where hepatocytes are tightly packed. Here, we demonstrate that SR-BI and CLDN1 expression is modulated in confluent human hepatoma cells, with both receptors being enriched at cell-cell junctions. Cellular contact increased HCV pseudoparticle (HCVpp) and HCV particle (HCVcc) infection and accelerated the internalization of cell-bound HCVcc, suggesting that the cell contact modulation of receptor levels may facilitate the assembly of receptor complexes required for virus internalization. CLDN1 overexpression in subconfluent cells was unable to recapitulate this effect, whereas increased SR-BI expression enhanced HCVpp entry and HCVcc internalization, demonstrating a rate-limiting role for SR-BI in HCV internalization.
PMCID: PMC2786758  PMID: 19776133
16.  How hepatitis C virus invades hepatocytes: The mystery of viral entry 
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a global health problem, with an estimated 170 million people being chronically infected. HCV cell entry is a complex multi-step process, involving several cellular factors that trigger virus uptake into the hepatocytes. The high- density lipoprotein receptor scavenger receptor class B type I, tetraspanin CD81, tight junction protein claudin-1, and occludin are the main receptors that mediate the initial step of HCV infection. In addition, the virus uses cell receptor tyrosine kinases as entry regulators, such as epidermal growth factor receptor and ephrin receptor A2. This review summarizes the current understanding about how cell surface molecules are involved in HCV attachment, internalization, and membrane fusion, and how host cell kinases regulate virus entry. The advances of the potential antiviral agents targeting this process are introduced.
PMCID: PMC3974512  PMID: 24707128
Hepatitis C virus; Virus entry; Hepatocytes; Receptor; Host kinase; Antiviral target
17.  Claudin-1 required for HCV virus entry has high potential for phosphorylation and O-glycosylation 
Virology Journal  2011;8:229.
HCV is a leading cause of hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis all over the world. Claudins belong to family of tight junction's proteins that are responsible for establishing barriers for controlling the flow of molecules around cells. For therapeutic strategies, regulation of viral entry into the host cells holds a lot of promise. During HCV infection claudin-1 is highly expressed in liver and believed to be associated with HCV virus entry after HCV binding with or without co-receptor CD81. The claudin-1 assembly with tight junctions is regulated by post translational modifications. During claudins assembly and disassembly with tight junctions, phosphorylation is required at C-terminal tail. In cellular proteins, interplay between phosphorylation and O-β-GlcNAc modification is believed to be functional switch, but it is very difficult to monitor these functional and vibrant changes in vivo. Netphos 2.0 and Disphos 1.3 programs were used for potential phosphorylation; NetPhosK 1.0 and KinasePhos for kinase prediction; and YinOYang 1.2 and OGPET to predict possible O-glycosylation sites. We also identified Yin Yang sites that may have potential for O-β-GlcNAc and phosphorylation interplay at same Ser/Thr residues. We for the first time proposed that alternate phosphorylation and O-β-GlcNAc modification on Ser 192, Ser 205, Ser 206; and Thr 191 may provide an on/off switch to regulate assembly of claudin-1 at tight junctions. In addition these phosphorylation sites may be targeted by novel chemotherapeutic agents to prevent phosphorylation lead by HCV viral entry complex.
PMCID: PMC3115886  PMID: 21569618
18.  The Tight Junction Proteins Claudin-1, -6, and -9 Are Entry Cofactors for Hepatitis C Virus▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(7):3555-3560.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of liver disease in humans. The CD81 tetraspanin is necessary but not sufficient for HCV penetration into hepatocytes, and it was recently reported that the tight junction protein claudin-1 is a critical HCV entry cofactor. Here, we confirm the role of claudin-1 in HCV entry. In addition, we show that claudin-6 and claudin-9 expressed in CD81+ cells also enable the entry of HCV pseudoparticles derived from six of the major genotypes. Whereas claudin-1, -6, and -9 function equally well as entry cofactors in endothelial cells, claudin-1 is more efficient in hepatoma cells. This suggests that additional cellular factors modulate the ability of claudins to function as HCV entry cofactors. Our work has generated novel and essential means to investigate the mechanism of HCV penetration into hepatocytes and the role of the claudin protein family in HCV dissemination, replication, and pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2268462  PMID: 18234789
19.  Human occludin is a hepatitis C virus entry factor required for infection of mouse cells 
Nature  2009;457(7231):882-886.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a leading cause of liver disease worldwide. The development of much needed specific antiviral therapies and an effective vaccine has been hampered by the lack of a convenient small animal model. The determinants restricting HCV tropism to human and chimpanzee hosts are unknown. Replication of the viral RNA has been demonstrated in mouse cells1,2, but these cells are not infectable with either lentiviral particles bearing HCV glycoproteins (HCVpp)3 or HCV produced in cell culture (HCVcc)(unpublished data), suggesting a block at the level of entry. Through an iterative cDNA library screening approach we have identified human occludin (OCLN) as an essential HCV cell entry factor that is able to render murine cells infectable with HCVpp. Similarly, OCLN is required for HCV-susceptibility of human cells, since its overexpression in uninfectable cells specifically enhanced HCVpp uptake while its silencing in permissive cells impaired both HCVpp and HCVcc infection. In addition to OCLN, HCVpp infection of murine cells required expression of the previously identified HCV entry factors, CD814, scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI)5, and claudin-1 (CLDN1)6. While the mouse versions of SR-BI and CLDN1 function at least as well as the human proteins for promoting HCV entry; both OCLN and CD81, however, must be of human origin to allow efficient infection. The species-specific determinants of OCLN were mapped to its second extracellular loop. The identification of OCLN as a new HCV entry factor further highlights the importance of the tight junction complex in the viral entry process and provides a major advance towards efforts to develop small animal models for HCV.
PMCID: PMC2762424  PMID: 19182773
20.  Residues in a Highly Conserved Claudin-1 Motif Are Required for Hepatitis C Virus Entry and Mediate the Formation of Cell-Cell Contacts▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(11):5477-5484.
Claudin-1, a component of tight junctions between liver hepatocytes, is a hepatitis C virus (HCV) late-stage entry cofactor. To investigate the structural and functional roles of various claudin-1 domains in HCV entry, we applied a mutagenesis strategy. Putative functional intracellular claudin-1 domains were not important. However, we identified seven novel residues in the first extracellular loop that are critical for entry of HCV isolates drawn from six different subtypes. Most of the critical residues belong to the highly conserved claudin motif W30-GLW51-C54-C64. Alanine substitutions of these residues did not impair claudin-1 cell surface expression or lateral protein interactions within the plasma membrane, including claudin-1-claudin-1 and claudin-1-CD81 interactions. However, these mutants no longer localized to cell-cell contacts. Based on our observations, we propose that cell-cell contacts formed by claudin-1 may generate specialized membrane domains that are amenable to HCV entry.
PMCID: PMC2681980  PMID: 19297469
21.  The claudins 
Genome Biology  2009;10(8):235.
Claudins are crucial components of tight junctions and are important in regulating permeability and maintaining cell polarity in cell sheets.
The claudin multigene family encodes tetraspan membrane proteins that are crucial structural and functional components of tight junctions, which have important roles in regulating paracellular permeability and maintaining cell polarity in epithelial and endothelial cell sheets. In mammals, the claudin family consists of 24 members, which exhibit complex tissue-specific patterns of expression. The extracellular loops of claudins from adjacent cells interact with each other to seal the cellular sheet and regulate paracellular transport between the luminal and basolateral spaces. The claudins interact with multiple proteins and are intimately involved in signal transduction to and from the tight junction. Several claudin mouse knockout models have been generated and the diversity of phenotypes observed clearly demonstrates their important roles in the maintenance of tissue integrity in various organs. In addition, mutation of some claudin genes has been causatively associated with human diseases and claudin genes have been found to be deregulated in various cancers. The mechanisms of claudin regulation and their exact roles in normal physiology and disease are being elucidated, but much work remains to be done. The next several years are likely to witness an explosion in our understanding of these proteins, which may, in turn, provide new approaches for the targeted therapy of various diseases.
PMCID: PMC2745760  PMID: 19706201
22.  Temporal Analysis of Hepatitis C Virus Cell Entry with Occludin Directed Blocking Antibodies 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(3):e1003244.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of liver disease worldwide. A better understanding of its life cycle, including the process of host cell entry, is important for the development of HCV therapies and model systems. Based on the requirement for numerous host factors, including the two tight junction proteins claudin-1 (CLDN1) and occludin (OCLN), HCV cell entry has been proposed to be a multi-step process. The lack of OCLN-specific inhibitors has prevented a comprehensive analysis of this process. To study the role of OCLN in HCV cell entry, we created OCLN mutants whose HCV cell entry activities could be inhibited by antibodies. These mutants were expressed in polarized HepG2 cells engineered to support the complete HCV life cycle by CD81 and miR-122 expression and synchronized infection assays were performed to define the kinetics of HCV cell entry. During these studies, OCLN utilization differences between HCV isolates were observed, supporting a model that HCV directly interacts with OCLN. In HepG2 cells, both HCV cell entry and tight junction formation were impaired by OCLN silencing and restored by expression of antibody regulatable OCLN mutant. Synchronized infection assays showed that glycosaminoglycans and SR-BI mediated host cell binding, while CD81, CLDN1 and OCLN all acted sequentially at a post-binding stage prior to endosomal acidification. These results fit a model where the tight junction region is the last to be encountered by the virion prior to internalization.
Author Summary
HCV is a serious public health problem. Although new treatments have recently become available, it is clear that effective therapies will require combinations of inhibitors targeting diverse stages of the viral life cycle. While the HCV cell entry process is considered a suitable antiviral target, a lack of understanding of this process has hampered the development of inhibitors. It is widely accepted that HCV cell entry requires many cellular proteins that are used in a nonredundant and sequential manner. However, a critical piece of information supporting this model – the determination of when OCLN is used during this process – could not be addressed due to a lack of reagents that specifically target this protein. In this study, we derive mutant OCLN proteins whose HCV cell entry activity can be blocked by incubation with an antibody. These mutants allowed us to show that OCLN is used very late in the HCV cell entry process, which fits a model in which tight junction components are required later in the process than more exposed factors. Furthermore, our studies suggest that HCV virions may interact directly with OCLN, which has thus far not been demonstrated experimentally.
PMCID: PMC3605286  PMID: 23555257
23.  CD81 and Claudin 1 Coreceptor Association: Role in Hepatitis C Virus Entry▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(10):5007-5020.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an enveloped positive-stranded RNA hepatotropic virus. HCV pseudoparticles infect liver-derived cells, supporting a model in which liver-specific molecules define HCV internalization. Three host cell molecules have been reported to be important entry factors or receptors for HCV internalization: scavenger receptor BI, the tetraspanin CD81, and the tight junction protein claudin-1 (CLDN1). None of the receptors are uniquely expressed within the liver, leading us to hypothesize that their organization within hepatocytes may explain receptor activity. Since CD81 and CLDN1 act as coreceptors during late stages in the entry process, we investigated their association in a variety of cell lines and human liver tissue. Imaging techniques that take advantage of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) to study protein-protein interactions have been developed. Aequorea coerulescens green fluorescent protein- and Discosoma sp. red-monomer fluorescent protein-tagged forms of CD81 and CLDN1 colocalized, and FRET occurred between the tagged coreceptors at comparable frequencies in permissive and nonpermissive cells, consistent with the formation of coreceptor complexes. FRET occurred between antibodies specific for CD81 and CLDN1 bound to human liver tissue, suggesting the presence of coreceptor complexes in liver tissue. HCV infection and treatment of Huh-7.5 cells with recombinant HCV E1-E2 glycoproteins and anti-CD81 monoclonal antibody modulated homotypic (CD81-CD81) and heterotypic (CD81-CLDN1) coreceptor protein association(s) at specific cellular locations, suggesting distinct roles in the viral entry process.
PMCID: PMC2346731  PMID: 18337570
24.  Differential Expression of Candidate Virus Receptors in Human T Lymphocytes Prone or Resistant to Infection with Patient-Derived Hepatitis C Virus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62159.
Accumulated evidence implies that hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects not only the liver but also the immune system. A lymphocyte-specific CD5 molecule was recently identified as essential for infection of T cells with native, patient-derived HCV. To assess whether the proposed hepatocyte receptors may also contribute to HCV lymphotropism, expression of scavenger receptor-class B type 1 (SR-B1), claudin-1 (CLDN-1), claudin-6 (CLDN-6), occludin (OCLN), CD5 and CD81 was examined by real-time RT-PCR and the respective proteins quantified by immunoblotting in HCV-prone and resistant T cell lines, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), primary T cells and their subsets, and compared to hepatoma Huh7.5 and HepG2 cells. SR-B1 protein was found in T and hepatoma cell lines but not in PBMC or primary T lymphocytes, CLDN-1 in HCV-resistant PM1 T cell line and hepatoma cells only, while CLDN-6 equally in the cells investigated. OCLN protein occurred in HCV-susceptible Molt4 and Jurkat T cells and its traces in primary T cells, but not in PBMC. CD5 was displayed by HCV-prone T cell lines, primary T cells and PBMC, but not by non-susceptible T and hepatoma cell lines, while CD81 in all cell types except HepG2. Knocking-down OCLN in virus-prone T cell line inhibited HCV infection, while de novo infection downregulated OCLN and CD81, and upregulated CD5 without modifying SR-B1 expression. Overall, while no association between SR-B1, CLDN-1 or CLDN-6 and the susceptibility to HCV was found, CD5 and CD81 expression coincided with virus lymphotropism and that of OCLN with permissiveness of T cell lines but unlikely primary T cells. This study narrowed the range of factors potentially utilized by HCV to infect T lymphocytes amongst those uncovered using laboratory HCV and Huh7.5 cells. Together with the demonstrated role for CD5 in HCV lymphotropism, the findings indicate that virus utilizes different molecules to enter hepatocytes and lymphocytes.
PMCID: PMC3633843  PMID: 23626783
25.  HCV entry receptors as potential targets for siRNA-based inhibition of HCV 
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major health concern with almost 3% of the world's population (350 million individuals) and 10% of the Pakistani population chronically infected with this viral pathogen. The current therapy of interferon-α and ribavirin against HCV has limited efficiency, so alternative options are desperately needed. RNA interference (RNAi), which results in a sequence-specific degradation of HCV RNA has potential as a powerful alternative molecular therapeutic approach. Concerning viral entry, the HCV structural gene E2 is mainly involved in virus attachment to the host cell surface receptors i.e., CD81 tetraspanin, scavenger receptor class B type 1 (SR-B1), low density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) and claudin1 (CLDN1).
In this report, we studied the relationship of the HCV receptors CD81, LDL, CLDN1 and SR-B1to HCV infection. The potential of siRNAs to inhibit HCV-3a replication in serum-infected Huh-7 cells was demonstrated by treatment with siRNAs against HCV receptors, which resulted in a significant decrease in HCV viral copy number.
Our data clearly demonstrate that the RNAi-mediated silencing of HCV receptors is among the first of its type for the development of an effective siRNA-based therapeutic option against HCV-3a. These findings will shed further light on the possible role of receptors in inhibition of HCV-3a viral titre through siRNA mediated silencing.
PMCID: PMC3179693  PMID: 21896165

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