BACKGROUND & AIMS Oestrogen and oestrogen-mediated signalling protect from hepatitis C virus through incompletely understood mechanisms. We aimed to ascertain which phase(s) of hepatitis C virus life cycle is/are affected by oestrogens. METHODS Huh7 cells infected with the JFH1 virus (genotype 2a) were exposed to dehydroepiandrosterone, testosterone, progesterone and 17β-estradiol (tested with/without its receptor antagonist fulvestrant). Dose-response curves were established to calculate half maximal inhibitory concentration values. To dissect how 17β-estradiol interferes with phases of hepatitis C virus life cycle, its effects were measured on the hepatitis C virus pseudo-particle system (viral entry), the subgenomic replicon N17/JFH1 and the replicon cell line Huh7-J17 (viral replication). Finally, in a dual-step infection model, infectious supernatants, collected from infected cells exposed to hormones, were used to infect naïve cells. RESULTS Progesterone and testosterone showed no inhibitory effect on hepatitis C virus; dehydroepiandrosterone was only mildly inhibitory. In contrast, 17β-estradiol inhibited infection by 64%-67% (IC50 values 140-160 nmol/L). Fulvestrant reverted the inhibition by 17β-estradiol in a dose-dependent manner. 17β-estradiol exerted only a slight inhibition (<20%) on hepatitis C virus pseudo-particles, and had no effect on cells either transiently or stably (Huh7-J17 cells) expressing the N17/JFH1 replicon. In the dual-step infection model, a significant half maximal inhibitory concentration decline occurred between primary (134 nmol/L) and secondary (100 nmol/L) infections (P=.02), with extracellular hepatitis C virus RNA and infectivity being reduced to a higher degree in comparison to its intracellular counterpart. CONCLUSIONS 17β-estradiol inhibits hepatitis C virus acting through its intracellular receptors, mainly interfering with late phases (assembly/release) of the hepatitis C virus life cycle.