Transmission in vitro of hepatitis C virus from persistently infected human B-cells to hepatoma cells by cell-to-cell contact

Maria Beatrice Valli, Annalucia Serafino, Annalisa Crema, Luisa Bertolini, Aldo Manzin, Giulia Lanzilli, Cesare Bosman, Silvia Iacovacci, Sergio Giunta, Antonio Ponzetto, Massimo Clementi, Guido Carloni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Virus cell-to-cell spread has been reported for many different viruses and may contribute to pathogenesis of viral disease. The role played by cell-to-cell contact in hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission was studied in vitro by cell co-cultivation experiments. A human lymphoblastoid B-cell line, infected persistently with HCV in vitro (TO.FEHcv), was used as HCV donor [Serafino et al., 2003]; recipient cells were the human hepatoma HepG2 cell line. Both cell types were co-cultured for 48 hr to allow the cell-to-cell contacts. The hepatoma HepG2 cells are not permissive to free-virus infection, but they were infected successfully using TO.FEHcv cells as source of virus. The kinetics of viral RNA synthesis and the percentage of infected cells were compared in cell-mediated-and cell-free-viral infection. After co-cultivation, a consistent proportion of hepatoma cells replicated HCV and stably expressed viral antigens. Virus produced was infectious as demonstrated by the ability to reinfect fresh B-cells. This cell model shows that permissiveness to HCV infection can be achieved in vitro in non-permissive hepatoma cells by direct cell-to-cell contacts with infected human B-cells. This mechanism of virus spread may also play a pathogenic role in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-201
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006


  • Co-cultivation
  • HCV-infection
  • Lymphoblastoid B-cell line
  • Membrane contacts
  • Virus spread

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology


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