Helical computed tomography (HCT) has several advantages over conventional step-and-shoot CT for imaging a relatively large object, especially for dynamic studies. However, HCT may increase X-ray exposure significantly to the patient. This work aims to reduce the radiation by lowering the X-ray tube current (mA) and filtering the low-mA (or dose) sinogram noise. Based on the noise properties of HCT sinogram, a three-dimensional (3D) penalized weighted least-squares (PWLS) objective function was constructed and an optimal sinogram was estimated by minimizing the objective function. To consider the difference of signal correlation among different direction of the HCT sinogram, an anisotropic Markov random filed (MRP) Gibbs function was designed as the penalty. The minimization of the objection function was performed by iterative Gauss-Seidel updating strategy. The effectiveness of the 3D-PWLS sinogram smoothing for low-dose HCT was demonstrated by a 3D Shepp-Logan head phantom study. Comparison studies with our previously developed KL domain PWLS sinogram smoothing algorithm indicate that the KL+2D-PWLS algorithm shows better performance on in-plane noise-resolution trade-off while the 3D-PLWS shows better performance on r-axis noise-resolution trade-off. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) studies by using channelized Hotelling observer (CHO) shows that 3D-PWLS and KL+2DPWLS algorithms have similar performance on detectability in low-contrast environment.