1. Inserm, U748, Hô pitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg, Université Louis Pasteur, 3 Rue Koeberle, F-67000 Strasbourg, France 2. Service d’Hépatogastroentérologie, Hô pitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France 3. Department of Medicine II, University of Freiburg, Germany
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a member of the Flaviviridae family and causes acute and chronic hepatitis. Chronic HCV infection may result in severe liver damage including liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. The liver is the primary target organ of HCV, and the hepatocyte is its primary target cell. Attachment of the virus to the cell surface followed by viral entry is the first step in a cascade of interactions between the virus and the target cell that is required for successful entry into the cell and initiation of infection. This step is an important determinant of tissue tropism and pathogenesis; it thus represents a major target for antiviral host cell responses, such as antibody-mediated virus neutralization. Following the development of novel cell culture models for HCV infection our understanding of the HCV entry process and mechanisms of virus neutralization has been markedly advanced. In this review we summarize recent developments in the molecular biology of viral entry and its impact on pathogenesis of HCV infection, development of novel preventive and therapeutic antiviral strategies.