Molecular and cellular determinants of cell-to-cell transmission of HCV in vitro

Maria Beatrice Valli, Annalisa Crema, Giulia Lanzilli, Annalucia Serafino, Luisa Bertolini, Gianpietro Ravagnan, Antonio Ponzetto, Stefano Menzo, Massimo Clementi, Guido Carloni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It was reported previously that HCV can be transmitted from persistently infected human bone-marrow-derived B-lymphoblastoid cells (TO.FEHCV) to human hepatoma cells by cell-to-cell contact. The present study confirms and characterize further such type of HCV infection in vitro. TO.FEHCV cells were co-cultured with 2.2.15 hepatoma cells, that are not susceptible to cell-free infection by sera containing HCV of 1b genotype. By this co-cultivation system it was demonstrated that HCV transmission to recipient cells requires de novo virus RNA replication. Several factors may favor HCV-transmission, evidence is provided that TO.FEHCV cells were able to select HCV-quasispecies. 5′-UTR and core sequence analysis revealed differences in the HCV-quasispecies composition in serum inoculum and in infected TO.FE B-cells at 4 months post-inoculation. It is considered that the latter may be more successful in replicating HCV in vitro and used to express surface molecules which may be involved in cell-to-cell contact. In TO.FEHCV cells replicate distinct, or few close related, HCV-variants correlated with those of serum inoculum. Comparative analysis of tetraspans and integrins expression undertaken by cytofluorimetry displayed higher level of expression for TO.FE cells in comparison to other human bone-marrow-derived B-cell lines. Overall, the observed persistent in vitro HCV replication is mediated by a continuous cell-to-cell reinfection that may be favored by selection of viral variants and expression of molecules involved in cell adhesion. These observations may provide an explanation for the establishment of HCV infection, the occurrence of chronic infection and HCV-related lymphoproliferative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1491-1499
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • Cell-to-cell virus transmission
  • HCV-infection
  • Host and viral factors
  • Lymphoblastoid B-cell lines
  • Viral quasispecies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology


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