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Virology. 1997 Oct 27;237(2):270-82.

Isolation of RNA aptamers specific to the NS3 protein of hepatitis C virus from a pool of completely random RNA.

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  • 1National Institute of Bioscience and Human Technology, MITI, AIST, 1-1 Higashi, Japan.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a single-stranded RNA virus and its genome is translated into a single large polyprotein. The viral-encoded NS3 protein possesses protease, nucleoside triphosphatase, and helicase activities. Since these activities appear to be important for viral replication, efforts are being made to identify compounds that might inhibit the enzymatic activities of NS3 and serve as potential anti-HCV agents. We used a genetic selection strategy in vitro to isolate, from a pool of completely random RNA (120 random bases), those RNA aptamers that could bind to NS3. After six cycles of selection and amplification, 14% of the pooled RNAs could bind specifically to the NS3 protein. When the aptamers in the pool (cycle 6) were analyzed for binding and inhibition of the proteolytic activity of NS3 with the NS5A/NS5B peptide as substrate (S1), two aptamers, designated G6-16 and G6-19 RNA, were found to inhibit NS3 in vitro. Kinetic studies of the inhibition revealed that the aptamer G6-16 inhibited the NS3 protease with an inhibitory constant (Ki) of 3 microM. We also analyzed aptamers G6-16 and G6-19 for their action with a longer protein substrate (amino acid region 2203-2506) and found that these aptamers efficiently inhibited the proteolytic activity of NS3. In addition, both G6-16 and G6-19 aptamers were found to inhibit the helicase activity of NS3. Since these aptamers possesses dual inhibitory function for NS3, they could prove to be useful as anti-HCV drug leads.

Copyright 1997 Academic Press.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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