2Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, QC H4A 3J1, Canada.
3Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and Chronic Viral Illness Service, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, QC H4A 3J1, Canada.
4Centre for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, QC H4A 3J1, Canada.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection represents the major cause of chronic liver disease, leading to a wide range of hepatic diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. It is the leading indication for liver transplantation worldwide. In addition, there is a growing body of evidence concerning the role of HCV in extrahepatic manifestations, including immune-related disorders and metabolic abnormalities, such as insulin resistance and steatosis. HCV depends on its host cells to propagate successfully, and every aspect of the HCV life cycle is closely related to human lipid metabolism. The virus circulates as a lipid-rich particle, entering the hepatocyte via lipoprotein cell receptors. It has also been shown to upregulate lipid biosynthesis and impair lipid degradation, resulting in significant intracellular lipid accumulation (steatosis) and circulating hypocholesterolemia. Patients with chronic HCV are at increased risk for hepatic steatosis, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease, including accelerated atherosclerosis. This review aims to describe different aspects of the HCV viral life cycle as it impacts host lipoproteins and lipid metabolism. It then discusses the mechanisms of HCV-related hepatic steatosis, hypocholesterolemia, and accelerated atherosclerosis.