Antibodies targeting receptor-mediated entry of HCV into hepatocytes confer limited therapeutic benefits. Evidence suggests that exosomes can transfer genetic materials between cells; however, their role in HCV infection remains obscure. Here, we show that exosomes isolated from sera of chronic HCV infected patients or supernatants of J6/JFH1-HCV-infected Huh7.5 cells contained HCV RNA. These exosomes could mediate viral receptor-independent transmission of HCV to hepatocytes. Negative sense HCV RNA, indicative of replication competent viral RNA, was present in exosomes of all HCV infected treatment non-responders and some treatment-naïve individuals. Remarkably, HCV RNA was associated with Ago2, HSP90 and miR-122 in exosomes isolated from HCV-infected individuals or HCV-infected Huh7.5 cell supernatants. Exosome-loading with a miR-122 inhibitor, or inhibition of HSP90, vacuolar H+-ATPases, and proton pumps, significantly suppressed exosome-mediated HCV transmission to naïve cells. Our findings provide mechanistic evidence for HCV transmission by blood-derived exosomes and highlight potential therapeutic strategies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology