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J Mol Graph Model. 2007 Sep;26(2):546-57. Epub 2007 Apr 4.

Structural and functional comparison of the non-structural protein 4B in flaviviridae.

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  • 1Internal Medicine II, Saarland University Hospital, Kirrberger Strasse, 66421 Homburg/Saar, Germany.


Flaviviridae are evolutionarily related viruses, comprising the hepatitis C virus (HCV), with the non-structural protein 4B (NS4B) as one of the least characterized proteins. NS4B is located in the endoplasmic reticulum membrane and is assumed to be a multifunctional protein. However, detailed structure information is missing. The hydrophobic nature of NS4B is a major difficulty for many experimental techniques. We applied bioinformatics methods to analyse structural and functional properties of NS4B in different viruses. We distinguish a central non-globular membrane portion with four to five transmembrane regions from an N- and C-terminal part with non-transmembrane helical elements. We demonstrate high similarity in sequence and structure for the C-terminal part within the flaviviridae family. A palmitoylation site contained in the C-terminal part of HCV is equally conserved in GB virus B. Furthermore, we identify and characterize an N-terminal basic leucine zipper (bZIP) motif in HCV, which is suggestive of a functionally important interaction site. In addition, we model the interaction of the bZIP region with the recently identified interaction partner CREB-RP/ATF6beta, a human activating transcription factor involved in ER-stress. In conclusion, the versatile structure, together with functional sites and motifs, possibly enables NS4B to adopt a role as protein hub in the membranous web interaction network of virus and host proteins. Important structural and functional properties of NS4B are predicted with implications for ER-stress response, altered gene expression and replication efficacy.

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