CD81/CD9 tetraspanins aid plasmacytoid dendritic cells in recognition of HCV-infected cells and induction of IFNalpha

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology; MassBiologics

Publication Date


Document Type



Hepatitis C; Antigens, CD81; Antigens, CD9; Interferon-alpha


Digestive System Diseases | Gastroenterology | Hepatology | Immunology and Infectious Disease | Virus Diseases


Recognition of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected hepatocyes and interferon (IFN) induction are critical in antiviral immune response. We hypothesized that cell-cell contact between plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) and HCV-infected cells was required for IFNalpha induction via involvement of cell surface molecules. Co-culture of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) with genotype 1a full length HCV genomic replicon cells (FL) or genotype 2a JFH-1 virus infected hepatoma cells (JFH-1), not with uninfected hepatoma cells (Huh7.5), induced IFNalpha production. Depletion of pDCs from PBMCs attenuated IFNalpha release and purified pDCs produced high levels of IFNalpha after co-culture with FL replicons or JFH-1 infected cells. IFNalpha induction by HCV-containing hepatoma cells required viral replication, direct cell-cell contact with pDCs, and receptor-mediated endocytosis. We determined that the tetraspanin proteins, CD81 and CD9 and not other HCV entry receptors were required for IFNalpha induction in pDCs by HCV infected hepatoma cells. Disruption of cholesterol-rich membrane microdomains, the localization site of CD81 or inhibition of CD81 downstream molecule, Rac GTPase, inhibited IFNalpha production. IFNalpha induction involved HCV RNA and Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7). IFNalpha production by HCV infected hepatoma cells was decreased in pDCs from HCV infected patients compared to normal controls. We found that pre-exposure of normal PBMCs to HCV viral particles attenuated IFNalpha induction by HCV infected hepatoma cells or TLR ligands and this inhibitory effect could be prevented by an anti-HCV E2 blocking antibody. In conclusion, our novel data show that recognition of HCV-infected hepatoma cells by pDCs involves CD81/CD9-associated membrane microdomains and induces potent IFNalpha production. (HEPATOLOGY 2012.).

DOI of Published Version



Hepatology. 2013 Sep;58(3):940-9. doi: 10.1002/hep.25827 Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID