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EMBO J. 2001 Jul 16;20(14):3840-8.

Synthesis of a novel hepatitis C virus protein by ribosomal frameshift.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, University of Southern California, 2011 Zonal Avenue, HMR-401, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an important human pathogen that affects approximately 100 million people worldwide. Its RNA genome codes for a polyprotein, which is cleaved by viral and cellular proteases to produce at least 10 mature viral protein products. We report here the discovery of a novel HCV protein synthesized by ribosomal frameshift. This protein, which we named the F protein, is synthesized from the initiation codon of the polyprotein sequence followed by ribosomal frameshift into the -2/+1 reading frame. This ribosomal frameshift requires only codons 8-14 of the core protein-coding sequence, and the shift junction is located at or near codon 11. An F protein analog synthesized in vitro reacted with the sera of HCV patients but not with the sera of hepatitis B patients, indicating the expression of the F protein during natural HCV infection. This unexpected finding may open new avenues for the development of anti-HCV drugs.

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