Rapid intracellular competition between hepatitis C viral genomes as a result of mitosis

J Virol. 2013 Jan;87(1):581-96. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01047-12. Epub 2012 Oct 24.


Cells infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) become refractory to further infection by HCV (T. Schaller et al., J. Virol. 81:4591-4603, 2007; D. M. Tscherne et al., J. Virol. 81:3693-3703, 2007). This process, termed superinfection exclusion, does not involve downregulation of surface viral receptors but instead occurs inside the cell at the level of RNA replication. The originally infecting virus may occupy replication niches or sequester host factors necessary for viral growth, preventing effective growth of viruses that enter the cell later. However, there appears to be an additional level of intracellular competition between viral genomes that occurs at or shortly following mitosis. In the setting of cellular division, when two viral replicons of equivalent fitness are present within a cell, each has an equal opportunity to exclude the other. In a population of dividing cells, the competition between viral genomes proceeds apace, randomly clearing one or the other genome from cells in the span of 9 to 12 days. These findings demonstrate a new mechanism of intracellular competition between HCV strains, which may act to further limit HCV's genetic diversity and ability to recombine in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Hepacivirus / growth & development
  • Hepacivirus / physiology*
  • Hepatocytes / virology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Mitosis*
  • Viral Interference*