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J Biol Chem. 2003 Apr 4;278(14):11979-84. Epub 2003 Jan 27.

Inhibition of hepatitis C virus RNA replication by 2'-modified nucleoside analogs.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Merck Research Laboratories, West Point, Pennsylvania 19486, USA.


The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (NS5B) of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is essential for the replication of viral RNA and thus constitutes a valid target for the chemotherapeutic intervention of HCV infection. In this report, we describe the identification of 2'-substituted nucleosides as inhibitors of HCV replication. The 5'-triphosphates of 2'-C-methyladenosine and 2'-O-methylcytidine are found to inhibit NS5B-catalyzed RNA synthesis in vitro, in a manner that is competitive with substrate nucleoside triphosphate. NS5B is able to incorporate either nucleotide analog into RNA as determined with gel-based incorporation assays but is impaired in its ability to extend the incorporated analog by addition of the next nucleotide. In a subgenomic replicon cell line, 2-C-methyladenosine and 2'-O-methylcytidine inhibit HCV RNA replication. The 5'-triphosphates of both nucleosides are detected intracellularly following addition of the nucleosides to the media. However, significantly higher concentrations of 2'-C-methyladenosine triphosphate than 2'-O-methylcytidine triphosphate are detected, consistent with the greater potency of 2'-C-methyladenosine in the replicon assay, despite similar inhibition of NS5B by the triphosphates in the in vitro enzyme assays. Thus, the 2'-modifications of natural substrate nucleosides transform these molecules into potent inhibitors of HCV replication.

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