Hepatitis C virus (HCV), an important human pathogen, is an enveloped, positive-stranded RNA virus classified in the hepacivirus genus of the Flaviviridae family. Cell attachment of flaviviruses generally leads to endocytosis of bound virions. Systems that support HCV replication and particle formation in vitro are emerging only now, 16 years after the discovery of the virus. Albeit this limitation, the route of HCV cell entry as well as 'capture' molecules involved in low-affinity interactions for the initial contact of HCV with target cells and potential high-affinity receptor candidates that may mediate HCV trafficking and fusion has been described. The objective of this review is to summarize the contribution of different HCV model systems to our current knowledge about structure of the HCV GPs E1 and E2 and their roles in cell entry comprising cell attachment, interactions with cellular receptors, endocytosis, and fusion.
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