Several cellular molecules have been identified as putative receptors for Hepatitis C virus (HCV): CD81 tetraspanin, scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI), mannose-binding lectins DC-SIGN and L-SIGN, low-density lipoprotein receptor, heparan sulphate proteoglycans and the asialoglycoprotein receptor. Due to difficulties in propagating HCV in cell culture, most of these molecules have been identified by analysing their interaction with a soluble, truncated form of HCV glycoprotein E2. A recent major step in investigating HCV entry was the development of pseudoparticles (HCVpp), consisting of unmodified HCV envelope glycoproteins assembled onto retroviral core particles. This system has allowed the investigation of the role of candidate receptors in the early steps of the HCV life cycle and the data obtained can now be confirmed with the help of a newly developed cell-culture system that allows efficient amplification of HCV (HCVcc). Interestingly, CD81 and SR-BI have been shown to play direct roles in HCVpp and/or HCVcc entry. However, co-expression of CD81 and SR-BI in non-hepatic cell lines does not lead to HCVpp entry, indicating that other molecule(s), expressed only in hepatic cells, are necessary for HCV entry. In this review, the molecules that have been proposed as potential HCV receptors are described and the experimental data indicating that CD81 and SR-BI are potentially involved in HCV entry are presented.
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