Gene Expression Profiling of Different Huh7 Variants Reveals Novel Hepatitis C Virus Host Factors
Chronic Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection still constitutes a major global health problem with almost half a million deaths per year. To date, the human hepatoma cell line Huh7 and its derivatives is the only cell line that robustly replicates HCV. However, even different subclones and passages of this single cell line exhibit tremendous differences in HCV replication efficiency. By comparative gene expression profiling using a multi-pronged correlation analysis across eight different Huh7
... different Huh7 variants, we identified 34 candidate host factors possibly affecting HCV permissiveness. For seven of the candidates, we could show by knock-down studies their implication in HCV replication. Notably, for at least four of them, we furthermore found that overexpression boosted HCV replication in lowly permissive Huh7 cells, most prominently for the histone-binding transcriptional repressor THAP7 and the nuclear receptor NR0B2. For NR0B2, our results suggest a finely balanced expression optimum reached in highly permissive Huh7 cells, with even higher levels leading to a nearly complete breakdown of HCV replication, likely due to a dysregulation of bile acid and cholesterol metabolism. Our unbiased expression-profiling approach, hence, led to the identification of four host cellular genes that contribute to HCV permissiveness in Huh7 cells. These findings add to an improved understanding of the molecular underpinnings of the strict host cell tropism of HCV.