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Abstract

Coinfection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been associated with severe liver disease and frequent progression to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Clinical evidence suggests reciprocal replicative suppression of the two viruses, or viral interference. However, interactions between HBV and HCV have been difficult to study due to the lack of appropriate model systems. We have established a novel model system to investigate interactions between HBV and HCV. Stable Huh-7 cell lines inducibly replicating HBV were transfected with selectable HCV replicons or infected with cell culture–derived HCV. In this system, both viruses were found to replicate in the same cell without overt interference. Specific inhibition of one virus did not affect the replication and gene expression of the other. Furthermore, cells harboring replicating HBV could be infected with cell culture–derived HCV, arguing against superinfection exclusion. Finally, cells harboring replicating HBV supported efficient production of infectious HCV. Conclusion: HBV and HCV can replicate in the same cell without evidence for direct interference in vitro. Therefore, the viral interference observed in coinfected patients is probably due to indirect mechanisms mediated by innate and/or adaptive host immune responses. These findings provide new insights into the pathogenesis of HBV–HCV coinfection and may contribute to its clinical management in the future. (HEPATOLOGY 2009.)