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Virology. 2001 Nov 25;290(2):224-36.

The hepatitis C virus core protein interacts with NS5A and activates its caspase-mediated proteolytic cleavage.

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Collaborative Anti-viral Research Group, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, 30 Medical Drive, Singapore 117609.


Viral proteins interact with one another during viral replication, assembly, and maturation. Systematic interaction assays of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) proteins using the yeast two-hybrid method have uncovered a novel interaction between core and NS5A. This interaction was confirmed by in vitro binding assays, and coimmunoprecipitation in mammalian cells. Core and NS5A are also colocalized in COS-7 cells. Interestingly, NS5A is cleaved to give specific-size fragments, when core is coexpressed in mammalian cells. Overexpression of core produced many dying and rounded cells and effects such as DNA laddering and the truncation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1), both indicators of apoptosis. These observations led us to investigate the link between the induction of apoptosis by core and the cleavage of NS5A. The proteolysis of NS5A and these apoptotic events can be inhibited by caspase inhibitor, Z-VAD, indicating that core induces apoptosis and the cleavage of NS5A by caspases. In cells infected by the HCV, core may provide the intrinsic apoptotic signal, which produces truncated forms of NS5A. The biological function of core-NS5A interaction and the downstream effect of NS5A cleavage are discussed.

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