Host and viral factors contributing to CD8+ T cell failure in hepatitis C virus infection

World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Sep 28;13(36):4839-47. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v13.i36.4839.


Virus-specific CD8+ T cells are thought to be the major anti-viral effector cells in hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Indeed, viral clearance is associated with vigorous CD8+ T cell responses targeting multiple epitopes. In the chronic phase of infection, HCV-specific CD8+ T cell responses are usually weak, narrowly focused and display often functional defects regarding cytotoxicity, cytokine production, and proliferative capacity. In the last few years, different mechanisms which might contribute to the failure of HCV-specific CD8+ T cells in chronic infection have been identified, including insufficient CD4+ help, deficient CD8+ T cell differentiation, viral escape mutations, suppression by viral factors, inhibitory cytokines, inhibitory ligands, and regulatory T cells. In addition, host genetic factors such as the host's human leukocyte antigen (HLA) background may play an important role in the efficiency of the HCV-specific CD8+ T cell response and thus outcome of infection. The growing understanding of the mechanisms contributing to T cell failure and persistence of HCV infection will contribute to the development of successful immunotherapeutical and -prophylactical strategies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • Genes, MHC Class I
  • Hepacivirus / immunology*
  • Hepacivirus / physiology
  • Hepatitis C / genetics
  • Hepatitis C / immunology*
  • Hepatitis C / virology
  • Humans