Hepatitis C virus blocks 'superinfection'

April 5, 2007

There’s infection and then there’s superinfection – when a cell already infected by a virus gets a second viral infection. But some viruses don’t like to share their cells. New research from Rockefeller University shows that the hepatitis C virus, which infects cells in the liver and can cause chronic liver disease, can block other hepatitis C variants from infecting the same cell.

Research from Charles Rice’s laboratory at Rockefeller last year created the first hepatitis C virus that could be grown in cell culture. Using this virus, called HCVcc, the scientists, lead by graduate student Donna Tscherne, tried to infect cells previously infected with hepatitis C virus. But it didn’t work; the cells couldn’t be infected. The same was true when they tried to infect cells that contained hepatitis C virus of other genotypes than that of HCVcc. Only when they gave the cells a drug that could inhibit virus replication could they superinfect them with HCVcc. The first virus was stopping HCVcc from infecting the cells, a phenomenon called superinfection exclusion.

“A virus can interfere with a secondary infection in a variety of ways,” says Rice, head of the Laboratory of Virology and Infectious Disease and the Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Professor. “It can interfere with how a virus attaches to the cell, its penetration, or its access to the cell’s resources.” If both viruses are competing for the same resources in the cell, then the first virus can confiscate them so none are available for the second virus.

Rice and Tscherne believe this phenomenon may explain the mechanism of HCV superinfection exclusion. The scientists found that HCVcc is blocked at some point after it has entered the cell; most likely at a step, or steps, involved in replication. Future studies are being designed to try to identify what proteins are important for this step.

“Understanding superinfection exclusion has potentially important implications for understanding the biology of hepatitis C,” says Rice. The mechanism could, for instance, help the hepatitis C virus generate a large pool of variants that would be able to withstand attack from the immune system or from antiviral drugs. If the process of superinfection exclusion could be recreated therapeutically, it could also open up new treatment avenues.

Citation: Journal of Virology 81(8): 3693-3703 (April 2007)

Source: Rockefeller University

Explore further: What's the price of a hepatitis C cure?

Related Stories

What's the price of a hepatitis C cure?

August 4, 2016

Sofosbuvir is one of a number of new direct-acting antiviral drugs revolutionising the care of people living with hepatitis C. Combinations of two or three hepatitis C virus direct-acting antiviral drugs taken for 8-24 weeks ...

Two Zika proteins responsible for microcephaly identified

August 11, 2016

USC researchers have tracked down two Zika proteins potentially responsible for thousands of microcephaly cases in Brazil and elsewhere—taking one small step toward preventing Zika-infected mothers from birthing babies ...

Expert to Rio athletes: 'Don't put your head under water'

August 1, 2016

Just days ahead of the Olympic Games the waterways of Rio de Janeiro are as filthy as ever, contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria, according to a 16-month-long study commissioned by ...

Discovery of new Hepatitis C virus mechanism

July 27, 2016

Researchers at Osaka University, Japan uncovered the mechanisms that suppress the propagation of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) with the potential of improving pathological liver conditions. Using model mice, they confirmed ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.