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IFITMs mediate viral evasion in acute and chronic hepatitis C virus infection


Florian Wrensch


Laura Heydmann

Catherine Schuster

Mirjam B. Zeisel

Patrick Pessaux


Barnabas J. King

Professor of Molecular Virology

Michael Winkler


Zhen?yong Keck

Steven K.H. Foung

Thomas F. Baumert


While adaptive immune responses against hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection have been studied in great detail, the role of innate immunity in protection against HCV infection and immune evasion is only partially understood. Interferon‐induced transmembrane proteins (IFITMs) are innate effector proteins restricting host cell entry of many enveloped viruses, including HCV. However, the clinical impact of IFITMs on HCV immune escape remains to be determined. Here, we show that IFITMs promote viral escape from the neutralizing antibody response in clinical cohorts of HCV‐infected patients. Using pseudoparticles bearing HCV envelope proteins from acutely infected patients, we show that HCV variants isolated pre‐seroconversion are more sensitive to the antiviral activity of IFITMs than variants from patients isolated during chronic infection post‐seroconversion. Furthermore, HCV variants escaping neutralizing antibody responses during liver transplantation exhibited a significantly higher resistance to IFITMs than variants that were eliminated post‐transplantation. Gain‐of‐function and mechanistic studies revealed that IFITMs markedly enhance the antiviral activity of neutralizing antibodies and suggest a cooperative effect of human monoclonal antibodies and IFITMs for antibody‐mediated neutralization driving the selection pressure in viral evasion. Perturbation studies with the IFITM antagonist amphotericin B revealed that modulation of membrane properties by IFITM proteins is responsible for the IFITM‐mediated blockade of viral entry and enhancement of antibody‐mediated neutralization.


Wrensch, F., Ligat, G., Heydmann, L., Schuster, C., Zeisel, M. B., Pessaux, P., …Baumert, T. F. (2019). IFITMs mediate viral evasion in acute and chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Hepatology, 70(5), 1506-1520.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 1, 2019
Online Publication Date May 7, 2019
Publication Date 2019-11
Deposit Date May 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 8, 2020
Journal Hepatology
Print ISSN 0270-9139
Electronic ISSN 1527-3350
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 70
Issue 5
Pages 1506-1520
Keywords Hepatology
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Wrensch, F. , Ligat, G. , Heydmann, L. , Schuster, C. , Zeisel, M. B., Pessaux, P. , Habersetzer, F. , King, B. J., Tarr, A. W., Ball, J. K., Winkler, M. , Pöhlmann, S. , Keck, Z. , Foung, S. K. and Baumert, T. F. (2019), IFITMs mediate viral evasion in acute and chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Hepatology. Accepted Author Manuscript, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.