Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington, KY40536.
Our recent studies demonstrated that apolipoprotein E mediates cell attachment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) through interactions with the cell surface heparan sulfate (HS). HS is known to covalently attach to core proteins to form heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) on the cell surface. The HSPG core proteins include the membrane-spanning syndecans (SDCs), the lycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked glypicans (GPCs), the basement membrane proteoglycans perlecan (HSPG2), and agrin. In the present study, we have profiled each of the HSPG core proteins in HCV attachment. Substantial evidences derived from our studies demonstrate that SDC1 is the major receptor protein for HCV attachment. The knockdown of SDC1 expression by small interfering RNA (siRNA)-induced gene silence resulted in a significant reduction of HCV attachment to Huh-7.5 cells and the stem cell-differentiated human hepatocytes. The silence of SDC2 expression also caused a modest decrease of HCV attachment. In contrast, the siRNA-mediated knockdown of other SDCs, GPCs, HSPG2, and agrin had no effect on HCV attachment. More importantly, ectopic expression of SDC1 was able to completely restore HCV attachment to Huh-7.5 cells in which the endogenous SDC1 expression was silenced by specific siRNAs. Interestingly, mouse SDC1 is also fully functional in mediating HCV attachment when expressed in the SDC1-deficient cells, consistent with recent reports that mouse hepatocytes are also susceptible to HCV infection when expressing other key HCV receptors. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that SDC1 serves as the major receptor protein for HCV attachment to cells, providing another potential target for discovery and development of antiviral drugs against HCV.