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Virology. 2002 Aug 1;299(2):164-71.

Expression of HCV structural proteins impairs IFN-mediated antiviral response.

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Laboratory of Infectious Disease Immunology, Department of Microbiology, National Public Health Institute, Mannerheimintie 166, FIN-00300 Helsinki, Finland.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV), especially the genotype 1, is naturally resistant to the antiviral effects of interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha). Expression of the whole HCV genome and the NS5A protein has been suggested to interfere with the antiviral activity of IFN-alpha. Here we have analyzed the effect of individual or various combinations of HCV proteins on IFN-alpha-mediated antiviral effect against vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). When the structural proteins (core-E1-E2) of HCV genotype 1 were expressed in human osteosarcoma cells in a tetracycline-regulated manner, partial VSV resistance to IFN-alpha was established. This was seen as an enhancement of both viral protein synthesis and production of infectious virus. Priming of core-E1-E2-expressing cells with low doses of IFN-gamma (10 IU/ml) partially restored the antiviral activity of IFN-alpha. The core (high-level expression) and NS4B protein expression also showed some rescue of VSV replication. In this model cell system NS3A-NS4A complex and NS5A showed no inhibition of IFN-alpha-induced antiviral activity. Our results indicate that the expression of structural proteins of HCV may impair the antiviral activity of IFNs.

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