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J Virol. 2002 Feb;76(3):1181-93.

Binding of hepatitis C virus-like particles derived from infectious clone H77C to defined human cell lines.

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  • 1Department of Medicine II, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a leading cause of chronic hepatitis in the world. The study of viral entry and infection has been hampered by the inability to efficiently propagate the virus in cultured cells and the lack of a small-animal model. Recent studies have shown that in insect cells, the HCV structural proteins assemble into HCV-like particles (HCV-LPs) with morphological, biophysical, and antigenic properties similar to those of putative virions isolated from HCV-infected humans. In this study, we used HCV-LPs derived from infectious clone H77C as a tool to examine virus-cell interactions. The binding of partially purified particles to human cell lines was analyzed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting with defined monoclonal antibodies to envelope glycoprotein E2. HCV-LPs demonstrated dose-dependent and saturable binding to defined human lymphoma and hepatoma cell lines but not to mouse cell lines. Binding could be inhibited by monoclonal anti-E2 antibodies, indicating that the HCV-LP-cell interaction was mediated by envelope glycoprotein E2. Binding appeared to be CD81 independent and did not correlate with low-density lipoprotein receptor expression. Heat denaturation of HCV-LPs drastically reduced binding, indicating that the interaction of HCV-LPs with target cells was dependent on the proper conformation of the particles. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that insect cell-derived HCV-LPs bind specifically to defined human cell lines. Since the envelope proteins of HCV-LPs are presumably presented in a virion-like conformation, the binding of HCV-LPs to target cells may allow the study of virus-host cell interactions, including the isolation of HCV receptor candidates and antibody-mediated neutralization of binding.

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