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Abstract

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of liver disease but the full impact of HCV infection on the hepatocyte is poorly understood. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) is a novel method to analyze the full transcriptional activity of a cell or tissue, thus allowing new insight into the impact of HCV infection. We conducted the first full-genome RNA-Seq analysis in a host cell to analyze infected and noninfected cells, and compared this to microarray and proteomic analyses. The combined power of the triple approach revealed that HCV infection affects a number of previously unreported canonical pathways and biological functions, including pregnane X receptor/retinoic acid receptor activation as a potential host antiviral response, and integrin-linked kinase signaling as an entry factor. This approach also identified several mechanisms implicated in HCV pathogenesis, including an increase in reactive oxygen species. HCV infection had a broad effect on cellular metabolism, leading to increases in cellular cholesterol and free fatty acid levels, associated with a profound and specific decrease in cellular glucose levels. Conclusion: RNA-Seq technology, especially when combined with established methods, demonstrated that HCV infection has potentially wide-ranging effects on cellular gene and protein expression. This in vitro study indicates a substantial metabolic impact of HCV infection and highlights new mechanisms of virus–host interaction which may be highly relevant to pathogenesis in vivo. Hepatology 2010