Open Access Research

Low-level HIV infection of hepatocytes

Ling Kong1, Walter Cardona Maya12, Maria E Moreno-Fernandez3, Gang Ma1, Mohamed T Shata1, Kenneth E Sherman1, Claire Chougnet3 and Jason T Blackard1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Digestive Diseases, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, ML 0595, 231 Albert Sabin Way, Cincinnati, OH 45267, USA

2 Immunovirology and Reproduction Groups, University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia

3 Division of Molecular Immunology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Virology Journal 2012, 9:157  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-157

Published: 9 August 2012



There are only limited data on whether HIV infection occurs within the liver; therefore, we explored early and late stages of the HIV life cycle in two hepatocyte cell lines – Huh7.5 and Huh7.5JFH1 – as well as in primary human hepatocytes.


Integrated HIV DNA was detected in Huh7.5 and Huh7.5JFH1 cells, as well as in primary hepatocytes, and was inhibited by the integrase inhibitor raltegravir in a dose-dependent manner. HIV p24 protein was also detected in cell culture supernatants at days 1, 3, 5, and 7 post-infection and was inhibited by AZT, although levels were modest compared to those in a lymphocyte cell line. Culture supernatants from HIV-infected hepatocytes were capable of infecting a non-hepatic HIV indicator cell line.


These results indicating low-level HIV replication in hepatoctyes in vitro complement evidence suggesting that HIV has deleterious effects on the liver in vivo.

HIV; Hepatocyte; Liver; Integration; Huh7.5