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Virology. 2003 Sep 15;314(1):371-80.

Small molecule inhibition of hepatitis C virus E2 binding to CD81.

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Kansas State University, Program in Molecular and Developmental Biology, Division of Biology, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA.


The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a causal agent of chronic liver infection, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma infecting more than 170 million people. CD81 is a receptor for HCV envelope glycoprotein E2. Although the binding of HCV-E2 with CD81 is well documented the role of this interaction in the viral life cycle remains unclear. Host specificity and mutagenesis studies suggest that the helix D region of CD81 mediates binding to HCV-E2. Structural analysis of CD81 has enabled the synthesis of small molecules designed to mimic the space and hydrophobic features of the solvent-exposed face on helix D. Utilizing a novel bis-imidazole scaffold a series of over 100 compounds has been synthesized. Seven related, imidazole-based compounds were identified that inhibit binding of HCV-E2 to CD81. The inhibitory compounds have no short-term effect on cellular expression of CD81 or other tetraspanins, do not disrupt CD81 associations with other cell surface proteins, and bind reversibly to HCV-E2. These results provide an important proof of concept that CD81-based mimics can disrupt binding of HCV-E2 to CD81.

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