The scavenger receptor BI and its ligand, HDL: partners in crime against HCV neutralizing antibodies


François Loïc Cosset, ENS de Lyon, 46 Allée d’Italie, 69007 Lyon, France. E-mail:


Summary.  Better knowledge of the viral and host factors that determine HCV clearance vs. persistence at the acute stage of infection is needed in order to improve antiviral therapy and develop efficient vaccines. Spontaneous HCV clearance is associated with a strong, early and broad cellular immune response. Yet, several observations suggest that antibody-mediated neutralisation occurs during HCV infection in vivo and that polyclonal antibodies to HCV can be protective. The recent development of HCV infection assays has confirmed that sera from HCV-infected patients neutralise infection in vitro. Recent studies have demonstrated that Nt-antibodies, of narrow specificity, are induced during the early phase of infection and could play a role in controlling viral infection or clearance. Yet, high-titre, broadly cross-reacting Nt-antibodies are readily detected in chronically infected patients, suggesting that their effectiveness is limited in patients who do not resolve the disease. The factors that mitigate the impact of the Nt-antibody response need to be clarified. Here we review some essential features of the Nt-antibody responses to HCV. We then discuss an original mechanism that HCV may use in vivo to attenuate Nt-antibodies, which involves the hyper-variable region-1 of the HCV-E2 glycoprotein, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and the physiologic activity of the scavenger receptor BI, a receptor shared by both HCV and HDL.