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Cell Signal. 2004 Dec;16(12):1375-85.

Activation of RB/E2F signaling pathway is required for the modulation of hepatitis C virus core protein-induced cell growth in liver and non-liver cells.

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Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Pathology, University of Düsseldorf, Mooren Str. 5, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein is a multifunctional protein that affects transcription and cell growth in vitro and in vivo. Here, we confirm the proliferative activities of core protein in liver and non-liver cells and delineate part of the mechanism whereby core protein promotes cell growth. We show that core protein suppresses the expression of tumor suppressor protein p53 and cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor p21 and enhances the activation of cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (CDK2), the phosphorylation of retinoblastoma (Rb), the activation of the transcription factor E2F-1, and the expression of E2F-1 and S phase kinase-interacting protein 2 (SKP2) genes. Pretreatment of core protein-expressing cells with the inhibitor of CDK2, Butyrolactone I, abolished the phosphorylation of Rb, the activation of E2F-1, and inhibited the expression of E2F-1 gene and cell growth induced. Consistent with these findings, we define a new signaling pathway whereby the HCV core protein mediates cell growth in infected cells.

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