Jorge F. Quarleri, José R. Oubiña
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a small, enveloped RNA virus. The number of HCV-infected individuals worldwide is estimated to be approximately 200 million. The vast majority of HCV infections persist, with up to 80% of all cases leading to chronic hepatitis associated with liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. The interaction between HCV and the host have a pivotal role in viral fitness, persistence, pathogenicity, and disease progression. The control of HCV infection requires both effective innate and adaptive immune responses. The HCV clearance during acute infection is associated with an early induction of the innate and a delayed initiation of the adaptive immune responses. However, in the vast majority of acute HCV infections, these responses are overcome and the virus persistence almost inexorably occurs. Recently, several host- and virus-related mechanisms responsible for the failure of both the innate and the adaptive immune responses have been recognized. Among the latter, the wide range of escape mutations to evade the specific-T-and B-cell responses as well as the T cell anergy and the CD8+ T cell exhaustion together with the interference with its function after prolonged virus exposure hold a pivotal role. Other HCV strategies include the modification or manipulation of molecules playing key roles in the induction of the interferon response and its induced effector proteins. In this review, we attempt to gain insights on the main T cell immune evasion strategies used by the virus in order to favor its persistence.
Key words. HCV, Immune evasion, CD4+ T cell, CD8+ T cell