Several Human Liver Cell Expressed Apolipoproteins Complement HCV Virus Production with Varying Efficacy Conferring Differential Specific Infectivity to Released Viruses

PLoS One. 2015 Jul 30;10(7):e0134529. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134529. eCollection 2015.


Apolipoprotein E (ApoE), an exchangeable apolipoprotein, is necessary for production of infectious Hepatitis C virus (HCV) particles. However, ApoE is not the only liver-expressed apolipoprotein and the role of other apolipoproteins for production of infectious HCV progeny is incompletely defined. Therefore, we quantified mRNA expression of human apolipoproteins in primary human hepatocytes. Subsequently, cDNAs encoding apolipoproteins were expressed in 293T/miR-122 cells to explore if they complement HCV virus production in cells that are non-permissive due to limiting endogenous levels of human apolipoproteins. Primary human hepatocytes expressed high mRNA levels of ApoA1, A2, C1, C3, E, and H. ApoA4, A5, B, D, F, J, L1, L2, L3, L4, L6, M, and O were expressed at intermediate levels, and C2, C4, and L5 were not detected. All members of the ApoA and ApoC family of lipoproteins complemented HCV virus production in HCV transfected 293T/miR-122 cells, albeit with significantly lower efficacy compared with ApoE. In contrast, ApoD expression did not support production of infectious HCV. Specific infectivity of released particles complemented with ApoA family members was significantly lower compared with ApoE. Moreover, the ratio of extracellular to intracellular infectious virus was significantly higher for ApoE compared to ApoA2 and ApoC3. Since apolipoproteins complementing HCV virus production share amphipathic alpha helices as common structural features we altered the two alpha helices of ApoC1. Helix breaking mutations in both ApoC1 helices impaired virus assembly highlighting a critical role of alpha helices in apolipoproteins supporting HCV assembly. In summary, various liver expressed apolipoproteins with amphipathic alpha helices complement HCV virus production in human non liver cells. Differences in the efficiency of virus assembly, the specific infectivity of released particles, and the ratio between extracellular and intracellular infectivity point to distinct characteristics of these apolipoproteins that influence HCV assembly and cell entry. This will guide future research to precisely pinpoint how apolipoproteins function during virus assembly and cell entry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apolipoproteins / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Hepacivirus / pathogenicity
  • Hepacivirus / physiology*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Virulence
  • Virus Replication / physiology*


  • Apolipoproteins

Grants and funding

This work was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 900, project A6) and by a grant from the Helmholtz Association (SO-024) to TP. FP is supported by the Mapping project (ANR-11-BINF-003). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.