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J Infect Dis. 2003 Jun 15;187(12):1951-8. Epub 2003 May 29.

Evidence of viral replication in circulating dendritic cells during hepatitis C virus infection.

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Unité Mixte de Recherche 2142, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Biomérieux, Lyon, France.


The existence of extrahepatic sites of hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication has been proposed as a mechanism responsible for the poor antiviral immune response found in chronic infection. Dendritic cells (DCs), as unique antigen-presenting cells able to induce a primary immune response, are prime targets of persistent viruses. From 24 blood samples obtained from HCV-seropositive patients, peripheral blood DCs (PBDCs) were purified. HCV genomic sequences were specifically detected by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction in 6 of 24 PBDC pellets, and replicative-strand RNA also was found in 3 of 24 cell purifications. Analysis of the HCV quasi-species distribution in the PBDC population of 1 patient showed the presence of a dominant variant different from that found in plasma with respect to the primary amino-acid sequence and physicochemical profile of the hypervariable region 1 of glycoprotein E2. These data strongly suggest that PBDCs constitute a reservoir in which HCV replication takes place during natural infection.

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