Reactive oxygen species suppress hepatitis C virus RNA replication in human hepatoma cells

Hepatology. 2004 Jan;39(1):81-9. doi: 10.1002/hep.20001.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a positive-stranded RNA virus that causes severe liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. HCV uses an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase to replicate its genome and an internal ribosomal entry site to translate its proteins. HCV infection is characterized by an increase in the concentrations of reactive oxygen species (ROS), the effect of which on HCV replication has yet to be determined. In this report, we investigated the effect of ROS on HCV replication, using a bicistronic subgenomic RNA replicon and a genomic RNA that can replicate in human hepatoma cells. The treatment with peroxide at concentrations that did not deplete intracellular glutathione or induce cell death resulted in significant decreases in the HCV RNA level in the cells. This response could be partially reversed by the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine. Further studies indicated that such a suppressive response to ROS was not due to the suppression of HCV protein synthesis or the destabilization of HCV RNA. Rather, it occurred rapidly at the level of RNA replication. ROS appeared to disrupt active HCV replication complexes, as they reduced the amount of NS3 and NS5A in the subcellular fraction where active HCV RNA replication complexes were found. In conclusion, our results show that ROS can rapidly inhibit HCV RNA replication in human hepatoma cells. The increased ROS levels in hepatitis C patients may therefore play an important role in the suppression of HCV replication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular
  • Cell Line, Tumor / virology
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepacivirus / growth & development*
  • Hepatitis C / metabolism*
  • Hepatitis C / virology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Liver Neoplasms
  • Oxidants / pharmacology
  • RNA, Viral / physiology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Subcellular Fractions / virology
  • Virus Replication / drug effects


  • Oxidants
  • RNA, Viral
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Hydrogen Peroxide