Department of Internal Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a positive sense, single-stranded RNA virus in the Flaviviridae family. It causes acute hepatitis with a high propensity for chronic infection. Chronic HCV infection can progress to severe liver disease including cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. In the last decade, our basic understanding of HCV virology and life cycle has advanced greatly with the development of HCV cell culture and replication systems. Our ability to treat HCV infection has also been improved with the combined use of interferon, ribavirin and small molecule inhibitors of the virally encoded NS3/4A protease, although better therapeutic options are needed with greater antiviral efficacy and less toxicity. In this article, we review various aspects of HCV life cycle including viral attachment, entry, fusion, viral RNA translation, posttranslational processing, HCV replication, viral assembly and release. Each of these steps provides potential targets for novel antiviral therapeutics to cure HCV infection and prevent the adverse consequences of progressive liver disease.