Ultrastructural and quantitative analysis of the lipid droplet clustering induced by hepatitis C virus core protein

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2010 Sep;67(18):3151-61. doi: 10.1007/s00018-010-0373-z. Epub 2010 Apr 27.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) release is linked to the formation of lipid droplet (LD) clusters in the perinuclear area of infected cells, induced by the core protein. We used electron microscopy (EM) to monitor and compare the number and size of LD in cells producing the mature and immature forms of the HCV core protein, and 3D EM to reconstruct whole cells producing the mature core protein. Only the mature protein coated the LD and induced their clustering and emergence from endoplasmic reticulum membranes enriched in this protein. We found no particular association between LD clusters and the centrosome in reconstructed cells. The LD clustering induced by the mature core protein was associated with an increase in LD synthesis potentially due, at least in part, to the ability of this protein to coat the LD. These observations provide useful information for further studies of the mechanisms involved in HCV-induced steatosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cricetinae
  • Fatty Liver / metabolism
  • Fatty Liver / virology*
  • Hepacivirus*
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Triglycerides / analysis
  • Viral Core Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Core Proteins / metabolism*


  • Lipids
  • Triglycerides
  • Viral Core Proteins
  • nucleocapsid protein, Hepatitis C virus