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J Gen Virol. 2004 Sep;85(Pt 9):2485-502.

Hepatitis C virus NS5A: tales of a promiscuous protein.

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School of Biochemistry & Microbiology and Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


The non-structural 5A (NS5A) protein of hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been the subject of intensive research over the last decade. It is generally accepted that NS5A is a pleiotropic protein with key roles in both viral RNA replication and modulation of the physiology of the host cell. Our understanding of the role of NS5A in the virus life cycle has been hampered by the lack of a robust in vitro system for the study of HCV replication, although the recent development of the subgenomic replicon has at least allowed us to begin to dissect the involvement of NS5A in the process of viral RNA replication. Early studies into the effects of NS5A on cell physiology relied on expression of NS5A either alone or in the context of other non-structural proteins; the advent of the replicon system has allowed the extrapolation of these studies to a more physiologically relevant cellular context. Despite recent progress, this field is controversial, and there is much work to be accomplished before we fully understand the many functions of this protein. In this article, the current state of our knowledge of NS5A, discussing in detail its direct involvement in virus replication, together with its role in modulating the cellular environment to favour virus replication and persistence, are reviewed. The effects of NS5A on interferon signalling, and the regulation of cell growth and apoptosis are highlighted, demonstrating that this protein is indeed of critical importance for HCV and is worthy of further investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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