The presence of naturally occurring resistance-associated substitutions (RASs) in the HCV-protease domain has been poorly investigated in the liver, the main site of HCV replication. We evaluated the natural resistance of the virus to NS3 protease inhibitors in liver tissue and plasma samples taken from HCV-infected patients. RASs were investigated by means of viral population sequencing in liver tissue samples from 18 HCV-infected patients harbouring genotype 1a or genotype 1b; plasma samples from 12 of these patients were also available for virological investigation. A discordant genotype was found in two of the 12 patients (16.6%) who provided samples from both compartments. Sequence analysis of the NS3 protease domain showed the presence of RASs in four of the 18 liver tissue samples (22.2%), two of which showed cross-resistance to protease inhibitors in clinical use or phase 2-3 trials. The analysis of the 12 paired tissues and plasma samples excluded the presence of RASs in the plasma compartment. The dominance of discordant genotypes in the paired liver and plasma samples of some HCV-infected patients suggests mixed infection possibly leading to the selective advantage of different genotype in the two compartments. The presence of RASs at intra-hepatic level is not uncommon and may lead to the early emergence of cross-resistant strains.