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J Biol Chem. 2001 Dec 21;276(51):47993-9. Epub 2001 Oct 17.

Post-translational modification of the hepatitis C virus core protein by tissue transglutaminase.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90033, USA.


The hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein is a structural protein that packages the viral genomic RNA. In this study, we demonstrate that a stable core protein dimer could be produced in liver cells. The production of this protein could be enhanced by calphostin C and serum deprivation. This protein was determined to be the core protein dimer because of its reactivity with the anti-core antibody, its similar electrophoretic mobility compared with that of the core protein dimer generated by cross-linking with glutaraldehyde, and its increase in size by a hemagglutinin tag fused to the core protein sequence. This core protein dimer was highly stable and resistant to SDS and beta-mercaptoethanol. The enzyme that mediated the formation of this stable core protein dimer was determined to be the tissue transglutaminase (tTG) because, first, tTG could be activated by calphostin C and serum deprivation; second, the formation of this dimer was suppressed by monodansylcadaverine, a tTG inhibitor; and third, the core protein could be cross-linked by tTG in vitro. Thus, the HCV core protein represents the first known viral structural protein substrate of tTG. The post-translational modification by tTG reduced the RNA binding activity of the core protein, raising the possibility that tTG may regulate the biological functions of the HCV core protein.

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