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J Gen Virol. 2003 Jun;84(Pt 6):1549-57.

Hepatitis C virus IRES efficiency is unaffected by the genomic RNA 3'NTR even in the presence of viral structural or non-structural proteins.

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  • 1INSERM U544, Institut de Virologie, 3 rue KoeberlĂ©, 67000 Strasbourg, France.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) translation is mediated by an IRES structure. Instead of a poly(A) tail, the 3' end of the genome contains a tripartite 3'NTR composed of a non-conserved region, a polypyrimidine tract and a highly conserved stretch of 98 nt, termed the 3'X region. Using a set of bicistronic recombinant DNA constructs expressing two reporter genes separated by the HCV IRES, it was determined whether the HCV 3'NTR sequence, in the presence or absence of HCV proteins, played a role in the efficiency of HCV IRES-dependent translation ex vivo. Bicistronic expression cassettes were transfected into hepatic and non-hepatic cell lines. These results show that neither the entire 3'NTR nor the 3'X sequence alters IRES-dependent translation efficiency, whatever the cell line tested. A potential effect of the 3'NTR on IRES-dependent translation in the presence of HCV proteins was investigated further. Neither non-structural nor structural HCV proteins had any effect on the efficiency of IRES in this system. In addition, in order to mimic HCV genome organization, monocistronic expression cassettes containing the IRES and a Core-DsRed fusion gene were constructed with or without the 3'NTR. In this context, no effect of the 3'NTR on IRES translation efficiency was observed, even in the presence of HCV proteins. These data demonstrate that HCV translation is not modulated by the viral genomic 3'NTR sequence, even in the presence of HCV structural or non-structural proteins.

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