Chronic hepatitis B, C and D virus (HBV, HCV and HDV) infections are a major cause of liver disease and cancer worldwide. Despite employing distinct replication strategies, the three viruses are exclusively hepatotropic, and therefore depend on hepatocyte-specific host factors. The sodium taurocholate co-transporting polypeptide (NTCP), a transmembrane protein highly expressed in human hepatocytes that mediates the transport of bile acids, plays a key role in HBV and HDV entry into hepatocytes. Recently, NTCP has been shown to modulate HCV infection of hepatocytes by regulating innate antiviral immune responses in the liver. Here, we review the current knowledge of the functional role and the molecular and cellular biology of NTCP in the life cycle of the three major hepatotropic viruses, highlight the impact of NTCP as an antiviral target and discuss future avenues of research.
Keywords: Anti-viral therapy; Bile acid transport; Hepatocytes; Host factor; Liver cell biology.