Alternative, non-invasive techniques are necessary to monitor the progression of liver disease during chronic hepatitis C. Firstly, because serum is the most accessible material for studies using qPCR in microplates, gene transcription was compared in 219 selected genes involved in the pathogenesis of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection between sera, PBMCs and liver samples collected simultaneously from five patients infected chronically. Secondly, using sera, gene profiles were compared between HCV-infected patients (n = 10) and healthy controls (n = 10). In addition, the influence of alcohol intake was examined in patients infected with HCV genotype-1. Firstly, amplifiable mRNAs were obtained in all samples. After amplification, significant correlations were observed between: liver versus serum; liver versus PBMCs; and serum versus PBMCs (r2 = 0.37, r2 = 0.54, r2 = 0.49, respectively). A comparison of gene transcription by gene involved in T- and B-cell markers, adhesion molecules, apoptosis, liver matrix turnover and inflammation, revealed comparable, significant correlations between serum and liver, (r2 = 0.30, r2 = 0.60, r2 = 0.51, r2 = 0.51, r2 = 0.26, and r2 = 0.61 respectively). Secondly, a quantitative analysis of gene expression in sera between genotype-1b-infected patients and healthy controls revealed that 41 genes involved closely in T-cell activation and apoptosis were over-expressed significantly in patients infected with HCV. In these patients, alcohol consumption was associated with an increased expression of six genes involved in the inflammatory response, together with a decrease of genes associated with dendritic cell function. It is concluded that in patients infected with HCV, serum can be used to evaluate expression of liver genes. Further prospective studies are clearly needed to validate the initial results and to define the relevant genes. J. Med. Virol. 81:473–480, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.