HCV infection can lead to chronic infectious hepatitis disease with serious sequelae. Interferon-alpha, or its PEGylated form, plus ribavirin is the only treatment option to combat HCV. Alternative and more effective therapy is needed due to the severe side effects and unsatisfactory curing rate of the current therapy. In this study, we found that several polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) including arachidonic acid (AA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are able to exert anti-HCV activities using an HCV subgenomic RNA replicon system. The EC(50) (50% effective concentration to inhibit HCV replication) of AA was 4microM that falls in the range of physiologically relevant concentration. At 100microM, alpha-linolenic acid, gamma-linolenic, and linoleic acid only reduced HCV RNA levels slightly and saturated fatty acids including oleic acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid, and steric acid had no inhibitory activities toward HCV replication. When AA was combined with IFN-alpha, strong synergistic anti-HCV effect was observed as revealed by an isobologram analysis. It will be important to determine whether PUFAs can provide synergistic antiviral effects when given as food supplements during IFN-based anti-HCV therapy. Further elucidation of the exact anti-HCV mechanism caused by AA, DHA, and EPA may lead to the development of agents with potent activity against HCV or related viruses.