Hepatitis C virus infection of human T lymphocytes is mediated by CD5

J Virol. 2012 Apr;86(7):3723-35. doi: 10.1128/JVI.06956-11. Epub 2012 Jan 25.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is one of the main causes of chronic liver disease. Although infection of hepatocytes is mainly responsible for manifestations of hepatitis C, the virus also invades the immune system by a yet-to-be-identified mechanism. Using human T cell lines and primary T lymphocytes as targets and patient-derived HCV as inocula, we aimed to identify how HCV gains entry into these cells. HCV replication was determined by detection of the HCV RNA replicative (negative) strand and viral proteins, while specific antibodies, knocking down gene expression and making otherwise-resistant cells prone to HCV, were employed to identify a receptor molecule determining T lymphocyte permissiveness to HCV infection. The results revealed that T cell susceptibility to HCV requires CD5, a lymphocyte-specific glycoprotein belonging to the scavenger receptor cysteine-rich family. Blocking of T cell CD5 with antibody or silencing with specific short hairpin RNA (shRNA) decreased cell susceptibility to HCV, while increasing CD5 expression by mitogen stimulation had the opposite effect. Moreover, transfection of naturally CD5-deficient HEK-293 fibroblasts with CD5 facilitated infection of these otherwise HCV-resistant cells. In contrast to T cells, hepatocytes do not express CD5. The data revealed that CD5 is a molecule important for HCV entry into human T lymphocytes. This finding provides direct insight into the mechanism of HCV lymphotropism and defines a target for potential interventions against HCV propagating in this extrahepatic compartment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD5 Antigens / genetics
  • CD5 Antigens / immunology*
  • Cell Line
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepacivirus / immunology
  • Hepacivirus / physiology*
  • Hepatitis C / genetics
  • Hepatitis C / immunology*
  • Hepatitis C / virology*
  • Humans
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / virology*


  • CD5 Antigens