Ultrastructural evidences of HCV infection in hepatocytes of chronically HCV-infected patients

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2003 Jun 13;305(4):1085-90. doi: 10.1016/s0006-291x(03)00884-2.


In this study, 13 samples of liver biopsies from patients with chronic hepatitis C were studied by transmission electron microscopy (EM) and immunoelectron microscopy (IEM). The 13 biopsies showed ultrastructural cell damage typical of acute viral hepatitis. In four of the 13 liver biopsies enveloped virus-like particles (VLPs) inside cytoplasmic vesicles and in the cytoplasm of hepatocytes were observed. We also detected the presence of unenveloped VLPs mainly in the cytoplasm and in the endoplasmic reticulum. IEM using anti-core, E1 and E2 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) confirmed the specific localization of these proteins, in vivo, inside cytoplasm and endoplasmic reticulum. Thus, this work provided evidence for hepatocellular injury related to HCV infection. It also suggested the presence of HCV-related replicating structures in the cytoplasm of hepatocytes and raised the possibility of hepatitis C virion morphogenesis in intracellular vesicles.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hepacivirus / ultrastructure
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / pathology*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / virology*
  • Hepatocytes / ultrastructure*
  • Hepatocytes / virology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Middle Aged
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / analysis
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / immunology
  • Virion / ultrastructure


  • E1 protein, Hepatitis C virus
  • Viral Envelope Proteins