The impact of mevastatin on HCV replication and autophagy of non-transformed HCV replicon hepatocytes is influenced by the extracellular lipid uptake

Tiziana Vescovo, Giulia Refolo, Matteo Ciancio Manuelli, Giuseppe Tisone, Mauro Piacentini, Gian Maria Fimia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Statins efficiently inhibit cholesterol synthesis by blocking 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl (HMG)-CoA reductase in the mevalonate pathway. However, the effect of statins on intracellular cholesterol is partially counterbalanced by a consequent increased uptake of extracellular lipid sources. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection induces intracellular accumulation of cholesterol by promoting both new synthesis and uptake of circulating lipoproteins, which is required for HCV replication and release. Hepatocytes respond to the increase in intracellular cholesterol levels by inducing lipophagy, a selective type of autophagy mediating the degradation of lipid deposits within lysosomes. In a cellular system of HCV replication based on HuH7 hepatoma cells, statin treatment was shown to be sufficient to decrease intracellular cholesterol, which is accompanied by reduced HCV replication and decreased lipophagy, and has no apparent impact on endocytosis-mediated cholesterol uptake. To understand whether these results were influenced by an altered response of cholesterol influx in hepatoma cells, we analyzed the effect of statins in non-transformed murine hepatocytes (MMHD3) harboring subgenomic HCV replicons. Notably, we found that total amount of cholesterol is increased in MMHD3 cells upon mevastatin treatment, which is associated with increased HCV replication and lipophagy. Conversely, mevastatin is able to reduce cholesterol amounts only when cells are grown in the presence of delipidated serum to prevent extracellular lipid uptake. Under this condition, HCV replication is reduced and autophagy flux is severely impaired. Altogether, these results indicate that both de novo synthesis and extracellular uptake have to be targeted in non-transformed hepatocytes in order to decrease intracellular cholesterol levels and consequently limit HCV replication.

Original languageEnglish
Article number718
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Volume10
Issue numberJUN
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 26 2019

Keywords

  • Autophagy
  • Cholesterol
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Lipid uptake
  • RNA replication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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