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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Feb 15;102(7):2561-6. Epub 2005 Feb 7.

Hepatitis C virus RNA replication is regulated by host geranylgeranylation and fatty acids.

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Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major cause of chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Our laboratory has previously demonstrated that high-level HCV replication during acute infection of chimpanzees is associated with the modulation of multiple genes involved in lipid metabolism, and that drugs that regulate cholesterol and fatty acid biosynthesis regulate the replication of the subgenomic HCV replicon in Huh-7 cells. In this article, we demonstrate that Huh-7 cells harboring replicating, full-length HCV RNAs express elevated levels of ATP citrate lyase and acetyl-CoA synthetase genes, both of which are involved in cholesterol and fatty acid biosynthesis. Further, we confirm that the cholesterol-biosynthetic pathway controls HCV RNA replication by regulating the cellular levels of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate, we demonstrate that the impact of geranylgeranylation depends on the fatty acid content of the cell, and we show that fatty acids can either stimulate or inhibit HCV replication, depending on their degree of saturation. These results illustrate a complex cellular-regulatory network that controls HCV RNA replication, presumably by modulating the trafficking and association of cellular and/or viral proteins with cellular membranes, suggesting that pharmacologic manipulation of these pathways may have a therapeutic effect in chronic HCV infection.

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