Background & Aims: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection leads to glucose abnormality. HCV depends on lipid droplets (LDs) and very-low density lipoproteins for assembly/releasing; however, the components and locations for this process remain unidentified. Apolipoprotein J (ApoJ), upregulated by glucose, functions as Golgi chaperone of secreted proteins and resides abundantly in very-low density lipoproteins. This study investigates the interplay between glucose, ApoJ and HCV virion production. Methods: The effects of high glucose on ApoJ expression and HCV production were evaluated with cultivated HuH7.5, primary human hepatocytes, and in treatment naive chronic hepatitis C patients. How ApoJ affects HCV lifecycle was assessed using siRNA knockdown strategy in JFH1 infected and subgenomic replicon cells. The interactions and locations of ApoJ with viral and host components were examined by immunoprecipitation, immunofluorescence and subcellular fractionation experiments. Results: HCV infection increased ApoJ expression, which in parallel with HCV infectivity was additionally elevated with high glucose treatment. Serum ApoJ correlated positively with fasting blood glucose concentration and HCV-RNA titre in patients. ApoJ silencing reduced intracellular and extracellular HCV infectivity and extracellular HCV-RNA, but accumulated intracellular HCV-RNA in HCV-infected cells. ApoJ interacted with HCV core and NS5A and stabilized the dual protein complex. HCV infection dispersed cytoplasmic ApoJ from the compact zones of the Golgi to encircle LDs, where co-localization of the core, NS5A, HCVRNA, subcellular markers for LDs, endoplasmic reticulum (ER), Golgi, and membrane contact sites occurred. Conclusions: ApoJ facilitates infectious HCV particle production via stabilization of core/NS5A, which might surround LDs at the ER-Golgi membrane contact site.
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