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J Viral Hepat. 1999 May;6(3):165-81.

The NS3/4A proteinase of the hepatitis C virus: unravelling structure and function of an unusual enzyme and a prime target for antiviral therapy.

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Institute for Virology, Johannes-Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany.


The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major causative agent of transfusion-acquired and sporadic non-A, non-B hepatitis worldwide. Infections most often persist and lead, in approximately 50% of all patients, to chronic liver disease. As is characteristic for a member of the family Flaviviridae, HCV has a plus-strand RNA genome encoding a polyprotein, which is cleaved co- and post-translationally into at least 10 different products. These cleavages are mediated, among others, by a virally encoded chymotrypsin-like serine proteinase located in the N-terminal domain of non-structural protein 3 (NS3). Activity of this enzyme requires NS4A, a 54-residue polyprotein cleavage product, to form a stable complex with the NS3 domain. This review will describe the biochemical properties of the NS3/4A proteinase, its X-ray crystal structure and current attempts towards development of efficient inhibitors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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