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J Biomed Sci. 2002 May-Jun;9(3):187-97.

The nonstructural NS5A protein of hepatitis C virus: an expanding, multifunctional role in enhancing hepatitis C virus pathogenesis.

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  • 1Infectious Diseases and Oncology, Schering-Plough Research Institute, Kenilworth, N.J., USA.


The hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS5A gene product is a phosphorylated 56- to 58-kD nonstructural protein that displays a multitude of activities related to enhancement of viral pathogenesis. Although associated with other viral encoded proteins as part of the viral replicase complex positioned on the cytoplasmic side of the endoplasmic reticulum, a role for NS5A in viral replication has not been defined. Post-translational modifications of NS5A include phosphorylation and potential proteolytic processing to smaller molecular weight forms able to translocate to the nucleus. Both the identification of a putative interferon (IFN) sensitivity-determining region within NS5A, as well as the direct interaction with and inhibition of the IFN-induced double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) by NS5A remain controversial. Truncated versions of NS5A can act as transcriptional activators, while other recently characterized interactions of NS5A with cellular proteins indicate its pleiotropic role in HCV-host interactions. NS5A itself has no direct effect on IFN-alpha signaling or activation, but other abundant interactions with members of the cellular signaling apparatus, transcription activation machinery and cell cycle-regulatory kinases have been described (e.g. growth factor receptor-bound protein 2, p53, p21/waf and cyclins). Many of these interactions block the apoptotic cellular response to persistent HCV infection. More recently, another altogether different mechanism attenuating the IFN-alpha response was reported based on induction of interleukin (IL)-8. IL-8, in model systems, potentiates viral replication and mutes the nonspecific intracellular IFN antiviral response. Evidence supporting a complex multimechanistic role of NS5A in promoting viral persistence, pathogenesis and, indirectly, viral-related hepatocarcinogenesis indicates its key role in HCV pathobiology.

Copyright 2002 National Science Council, ROC and S. Karger AG, Basel

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