"You know, you sort of have to get lucky," says Rice, who is also Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Professor at Rockefeller. "You've got these three factors you know are important, but you could have 10 other human factors that could have been necessary for hepatitis C virus entry. This work shows that's not the case."
In their DNA screen, the team, including Alexander Ploss, a research associate in the lab, and Matthew J. Evans, currently at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, first cloned all the genes that were expressed in liver cells and then delivered them to mouse cells. "Then, going through an iterative screening process, we honed in on the genes that made the mouse cells permissive," says Ploss, who spearheaded the project with Evans.
Since mice and humans each have a species-specific version of the four factors, the group used hamster cells to see which combination of factors did the best job at making the cells infectible. They found that in the case of two of the proteins, occludin and CD81, only the human versions worked; for SR-BI and CLDN1, the human and mouse versions did an equally good job. These experiments not only suggest that there may be more than one potential animal model, but also that there are several specific combinations of entry factors that could generate them.
"This work provides a clear foundation upon which we can now begin to construct an animal model for the uniquely human pathogen," says Rice. "This is only a first step but in terms of creating an animal model for hepatitis C, it's a big leap forward."
|Contact: Thania Benios|