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Biochem Pharmacol. 2002 Nov 15;64(10):1425-30.

Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress: hepatitis C virus induces an ER-nucleus signal transduction pathway and activates NF-kappaB and STAT-3.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Program in Molecular Biology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, 4200 East 9th Avenue, Denver, CO 80262, USA.


Human hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the leading cause of chronic hepatitis, which often results in liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. The HCV RNA genome codes for at least ten proteins. The HCV non-structural protein 5A (NS5A) has generated considerable interest due to its effect on interferon sensitivity via binding and inactivating the cellular protein kinase, PKR. It has been shown that NS5A engages in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-nucleus signal transduction pathway. The expression of NS5A in the ER induces an ER stress ultimately leading to the activation of STAT-3 and NF-kappaB. This pathway is sensitive to inhibitors of Ca(2+) uptake in the mitochondria (ruthenium red), Ca(2+) chelators (TMB-8, EGTA-AM), and antioxidants (PDTC, NAC, Mn-SOD). The inhibitory effect of protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) inhibitors indicates the involvement of PTK in NF-kappaB activation by NS5A. This implicates an alternate pathway of NF-kappaB activation by NS5A. The actions of NS5A have also been studied in the context of an HCV subgenomic replicon inducing a similar intracellular event. Thus, activation of NF-kappaB leads to the induction of cellular genes, which are largely antiapoptotic in function. These studies suggest a potential function of NS5A in inducing chronic liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma associated with HCV infection.

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