[Viral infection of hepatocytes.]
ABSTRACT Many viruses infect hepatocytes. On the one hand an understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms can be used to block infection by pathogenic viruses, on the other hand hepatotropic viruses can be utilized in gene therapy approaches for the directed delivery of genetic material into hepatocytes. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) follows a complex cell entry route utilizing at least four essential cell surface receptors on hepatocytes. Inhibitors of HCV cell entry are in early clinical development and could useful for the prevention of HCV reinfection of the graft after liver transplantation. Although much less is known about the cell entry of hepatitis B virus and hepatitis D virus (HBV; HDV) it can be blocked efficiently by active or passive immunization. Moreover, a highly specific lipopeptide entry inhibitor based on a fragment of the HBV envelope is in clinical development. Finally, approaches are being developed to use hepatotropic viruses to correct genetic defects in hepatocytes. Especially adeno-associated virus based vector systems have recently shown promising results in proof-of-concept studies.