Liver diseases associated with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection have become the major cause of mortality in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection since the introduction of highly active anti-retroviral therapy. HCV-related liver disease is more severe in HIV-infected patients than in non-HIV-infected patients, but the standard therapies used to treat chronic hepatitis C in HCV/HIV coinfected patients are the same as those for patients infected with HCV alone. HIV protease inhibitors might have potential to down-regulate HCV load of HCV/HIV coinfected patients. In this study, we evaluated the effects of nelfinavir on intracellular HCV replication using the HCV replicon system. We constructed an HCV replicon expressing a neomycin-selectable chimeric firefly luciferase reporter protein. Cytotoxicity and apoptosis induced by nelfinavir were assessed and synergism between nelfinavir and interferon (IFN) was calculated using CalcuSyn analysis. Nelfinavir dose-dependently repressed HCV replication at low concentrations (IC(50), 9.88 micromol/L). Nelfinavir failed to induce cytotoxicity or apoptosis at concentrations that inhibited HCV replication. Clinical concentrations of nelfinavir (5 micromol/L) combined with IFN showed synergistic inhibition of HCV replication in our replicon model. Our results suggest that the direct effects of nelfinavir on the HCV subgenome and its synergism with IFN could improve clinical responses to IFN therapy in HCV/HIV coinfected patients.