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Adv Virus Res. 2008;71:51-133. doi: 10.1016/S0065-3527(08)00002-X.

Cutting the gordian knot-development and biological relevance of hepatitis C virus cell culture systems.

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Copenhagen Hepatitis C Program (CO-HEP), Department of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Research Centre, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, Denmark.


Worldwide approximately 180 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV isolates exhibit extensive genetic heterogeneity and have been grouped in six genotypes and various subtypes. Additionally, several naturally occurring intergenotypic recombinants have been described. Research on the viral life cycle, efficient therapeutics, and a vaccine has been hampered by the absence of suitable cell culture systems. The first system permitting studies of the full viral life cycle was intrahepatic transfection of RNA transcripts of HCV consensus complementary DNA (cDNA) clones into chimpanzees. However, such full-length clones were not infectious in vitro. The development of the replicon system and HCV pseudo-particles allowed in vitro studies of certain aspects of the viral life cycle, RNA replication, and viral entry, respectively. Identification of the genotype 2 isolate JFH1, which for unknown reasons showed an exceptional replication capability and resulted in formation of infectious viral particles in the human hepatoma cell line Huh7, led in 2005 to the development of the first full viral life cycle in vitro systems. JFH1-based systems now enable in vitro studies of the function of viral proteins, their interaction with each other and host proteins, new antivirals, and neutralizing antibodies in the context of the full viral life cycle. However, several challenges remain, including development of cell culture systems for all major HCV genotypes and identification of other susceptible cell lines.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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