Research highlight

A new receptor for the hepatitis C virus

Nature Medicine

January 10, 2012

The identification of a new receptor for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is reported in an article published online this week in Nature Medicine. The Niemann-Pick C1-like 1 (NPC1L1) cholesterol absorption receptor has the potential to become a therapeutic target for the virus. HCV is a leading cause of liver disease, with around 170 million people infected worldwide. Current treatment options have low efficacy and serious side effects, making it necessary to develop more effective antivirals. Reasoning that viral entry into cells represents a potential target for antiviral intervention, Susan Uprichard and her colleagues found that the NPC1L1 cholesterol uptake receptor is an HCV entry factor amenable to therapeutic intervention. The team found that reducing the expression or blocking of NPC1L1 impaired HCV infection in human cells In addition, the clinically available NPC1L1 antagonist ezetimibe potently blocked HCV uptake and inhibited HCV infection in mice with human liver grafts. The availability of a drug that targets NPC1L1 already approved for use in humans may accelerate the translation of this finding to the clinical setting.

doi: 10.1038/nm.2581

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