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Abstract

Analysis of progressive changes in hepatic gene expression that underlie hepatocarcinogenesis following hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection require examination of long-term cultures of normally differentiating primary human hepatocytes. We report a culture system of primary hepatocytes that support productive replication of infectious HCV. Hepatic functions were analyzed by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction amplification of total cell RNA from cultures maintained in serum-free defined medium for up to 190 days. Sustained hepatic function was assessed by expression of albumin, alpha-fetoprotein, cytochrome P4502E1, cytokeratin-18, type-1 collagen, transforming growth factor-beta 1, matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), MMP-13, and interferon alpha-receptors 1 and 2. Normally differentiated human primary hepatocytes supported productive replication of infectious clones of HCV genotypes 1a, 1b, and 2a; virus infection was inhibited by antibodies against CD81 virus entry factor. Virus released into the culture media of HCV-infected primary hepatocytes repeatedly passage to naïve hepatocytes. Replication of the three HCV genotypes shows interferon sensitivity observed in natural infections. Conclusion: Sustained cultures of physiologic host cells for the propagation of infectious HCV strains should accelerate studies of host response to HCV infection and progressive liver disease. Hepatology 2010;51:1922–1932