Chen Q, Denard B, Huang H, Ye J
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) does not replicate efficiently in wild-type human hepatoma Huh-7 cells, but it replicates robustly in certain subclones of Huh-7 cells. Previously, we demonstrated that silencing of cAMP response element binding protein 3-like 1 (CREB3L1), a cellular transcription factor that inhibits HCV replication, allows HCV to replicate in HRP1 cells, a subclone of Huh-7 cells permissive for HCV replication. Here we show that silencing of Myxovirus resistant 1 (MX1), a known interferon-induced antiviral gene, is responsible for HRP4 cells, another subclone of Huh-7 cells, to be permissive for HCV replication. Both CREB3L1 and MX1 are epigenetically silenced through DNA methylation in HRP1 and HRP4 cells, respectively. We further demonstrate that Huh-7 cells exist as a mixed population of cells with distinct patterns of gene methylation, and HCV replicates in subpopulations of Huh-7 cells that have antiviral genes epigenetically silenced by DNA hypermethylation. Our results demonstrate that understanding the mechanism through which subclones of Huh-7 cells become permissive for HCV replication is crucial for studying their interaction with HCV.