Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599-7292, USA.
Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a leading cause of liver-specific morbidity and mortality in humans, including progressive liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. It has also been associated with altered function in other organs, including those of the endocrine, hematopoietic, and nervous systems. Disease results from both direct regulation of cellular metabolism and signaling pathways by viral proteins as well as indirect consequences of the host response to HCV infection, including inflammatory responses stemming from immune recognition of the virus. Recent in vitro studies have begun to reveal molecular mechanisms responsible for virus-induced changes in cell metabolism and cellular kinase cascades that culminate in pathologic consequences in the liver, such as steatosis, insulin resistance, and carcinogenesis. Here we discuss how these findings may be relevant to disease pathogenesis in patients, and suggest future directions in the field.