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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Nov 9;96(23):13034-9.

Crystal structure of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of hepatitis C virus.

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Virologie Moléculaire Structurale, Laboratoire de Génétique des Virus, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique/Unité Propre de Recherche 9053 1, Avenue de la Terrasse, F-91198 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France.


We report the crystal structure of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of hepatitis C virus, a major human pathogen, to 2.8-A resolution. This enzyme is a key target for developing specific antiviral therapy. The structure of the catalytic domain contains 531 residues folded in the characteristic fingers, palm, and thumb subdomains. The fingers subdomain contains a region, the "fingertips," that shares the same fold with reverse transcriptases. Superposition to the available structures of the latter shows that residues from the palm and fingertips are structurally equivalent. In addition, it shows that the hepatitis C virus polymerase was crystallized in a closed fingers conformation, similar to HIV-1 reverse transcriptase in ternary complex with DNA and dTTP [Huang H., Chopra, R., Verdine, G. L. & Harrison, S. C. (1998) Science 282, 1669-1675]. This superposition reveals the majority of the amino acid residues of the hepatitis C virus enzyme that are likely to be implicated in binding to the replicating RNA molecule and to the incoming NTP. It also suggests a rearrangement of the thumb domain as well as a possible concerted movement of thumb and fingertips during translocation of the RNA template-primer in successive polymerization rounds.

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