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J Virol. 2006 Feb;80(4):1734-41.

Time- and temperature-dependent activation of hepatitis C virus for low-pH-triggered entry.

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  • 1Laboratory of Virology and Infectious Diseases, Center for the Study of Hepatitis C, The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an important human pathogen associated with chronic liver disease. Recently, based on a genotype 2a isolate, tissue culture systems supporting complete replication and infectious virus production have been developed. In this study, we used cell culture-produced infectious HCV to analyze the viral entry pathway into Huh-7.5 cells. Bafilomycin A1 and concanamycin A, inhibitors of vacuolar ATPases, prevented HCV entry when they were present prior to infection and had minimal effect on downstream replication events. HCV entry therefore appears to be pH dependent, requiring an acidified intracellular compartment. For many other enveloped viruses, acidic pH triggers an irreversible conformational change, which promotes virion-endosomal membrane fusion. Such viruses are often inactivated by low pH. In the case of HCV, exposure of virions to acidic pH followed by return to neutral pH did not affect their infectivity. This parallels the observation made for the related pestivirus bovine viral diarrhea virus. Low pH could activate the entry of cell surface-bound HCV but only after prolonged incubation at 37 degrees C. This suggests that there are rate-limiting, postbinding events that are needed to render HCV competent for low-pH-triggered entry. Such events may involve interaction with a cellular coreceptor or other factors but do not require cathepsins B and L, late endosomal proteases that activate Ebola virus and reovirus for entry.

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