Here, we identify (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) as a new inhibitor of hepatitis C virus (HCV) entry. EGCG is a flavonoid present in green tea extract belonging to the subclass of catechins, which has many properties. Particularly, EGCG possesses antiviral activity and impairs cellular lipid metabolism. Because of close links between HCV life cycle and lipid metabolism, we postulated that EGCG may interfere with HCV infection. We demonstrate that a concentration of 50 μM of EGCG inhibits HCV infectivity by more than 90% at an early step of the viral life cycle, most likely the entry step. This inhibition was not observed with other members of the Flaviviridae family tested. The antiviral activity of EGCG on HCV entry was confirmed with pseudoparticles expressing HCV envelope glycoproteins E1 and E2 from six different genotypes. In addition, using binding assays at 4°C, we demonstrate that EGCG prevents attachment of the virus to the cell surface, probably by acting directly on the particle. We also show that EGCG has no effect on viral replication and virion secretion. By inhibiting cell-free virus transmission using agarose or neutralizing antibodies, we show that EGCG inhibits HCV cell-to-cell spread. Finally, by successive inoculation of naïve cells with supernatant of HCV-infected cells in the presence of EGCG, we observed that EGCG leads to undetectable levels of infection after four passages.
Conclusion: EGCG is a new, interesting anti-HCV molecule that could be used in combination with other direct-acting antivirals. Furthermore, it is a novel tool to further dissect the mechanisms of HCV entry into the hepatocyte.
Copyright © 2011 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.