Journal of Medical Virology vol:81 issue:9 pages:1569-1575
HCV replicates in liver via an intermediate negative strand RNA. To study the relevance of HCV genome replication, quantitative strand-specific HCV real-time RT-PCR assays were developed and applied to livers explanted because of end-stage cirrhosis. The assays have broad ranges of determination and a high reproducibility and accuracy. Analysis of five different samples showed an even distribution of HCV genomes in four livers. Hepatic concentrations of positive (PS)- and negative (NS)-strand RNA did correlate with each other, with PS/NS ratios ranging between 3 and 340. Hepatic concentrations of HCV-PS or -NS RNA did not correlate with serum HCV-RNA levels or with genotypes. A high HCV envelope-2 protein expression correlated with a low NS concentration. HCV-PS and -NS levels, E2 protein expression and genotype did not correlate with biochemical tests or with histological changes in the explanted liver, but the ratio NS/PS, a marker of viral replication, correlated with the severity of the recurrent post-transplant hepatitis caused by HCV. This suggests the existence of an extra-hepatic location of HCV with comparable viral replication rate being responsible for the infection of the newly transplanted liver.