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Gastroenterology. 2007 Jan;132(1):311-20. Epub 2006 Oct 21.

A cell-based, high-throughput screen for small molecule regulators of hepatitis C virus replication.

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Gastrointestinal Unit, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.

Erratum in

  • Gastroenterology. 2007 Aug;133(2):730.
  • Gastroenterology. 2007 Mar;132(3):1208. Kato, Nobuyuki [added]; Ikeda, Masanori [added].
  • Gastroenterology. 2007 May;132(5):2082.



Only half of patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection experience sustained virologic response to pegylated-interferon and ribavirin, which cause numerous side effects. Thus, the identification of more effective and better tolerated agents is a high priority. We applied chemical biology to screen small molecules that regulate HCV.


We first optimized the Huh7/Rep-Feo replicon cell line for the 384-well microplate format and used this line to screen a large library of well-characterized, known biologically active compounds using automated technology. After identifying several molecules capable of either stimulating or inhibiting HCV replication in this primary screen, we then validated our hit compounds using a full-length HCV replicon cell line in secondary screens.


We identified and validated a number of antiviral and proviral agents, including HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (antiviral) and corticosteroids (proviral). The finding of increased replication associated with corticosteroids suggests that these agents directly promote viral replication independent of their suppressive effects on the immune response. The finding of antiviral activity associated with the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors implies an important role for lipid metabolism in the viral life cycle.


We have developed a simple, reproducible, and reliable cell-based high-throughput screening assay system using an HCV replicon model to identify small molecules that regulate HCV replication. This method can be used to identify not only putative antiviral agents, but also cellular regulators of viral replication.

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