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Keywords:

  • Hepatitis C virus;
  • Core protein;
  • Gene regulation;
  • Apoptosis;
  • Cell growth regulation;
  • Immune response

Abstract

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) often causes a prolonged and persistent infection, and an association between hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and HCV infection has been noted. The pathogenesis of liver damage is at least in part related to virus-mediated factors. Understanding the molecular basis of pathogenesis is a major challenge in gaining insight into HCV-associated disease progression. Recent experimental evidence using HCV cloned genomic regions suggests that the core protein has numerous functional activities. These include its likely role in encapsidation of viral RNA, a regulatory effect on cellular and unrelated viral promoters, interactions with a number of cellular proteins, an modulatory role in programmed cell death or apoptosis under certain conditions, involvement in cell growth promotion and immortalization, induction of HCC in transgenic mice, and a possible immunoregulatory role. These intriguing properties suggest that the core protein, in concert with cellular factors, may contribute to pathogenesis during persistent HCV infection.