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FEBS J. 2005 Aug;272(15):3872-86.

Template requirements and binding of hepatitis C virus NS5B polymerase during in vitro RNA synthesis from the 3'-end of virus minus-strand RNA.

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UMR-5097 CNRS, Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2, Bordeaux, France.


In our attempt to obtain further information on the replication mechanism of the hepatitis C virus (HCV), we have studied the role of sequences at the 3'-end of HCV minus-strand RNA in the initiation of synthesis of the viral genome by viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp). In this report, we investigated the template and binding properties of mutated and deleted RNA fragments of the 3'-end of the minus-strand HCV RNA in the presence of viral polymerase. These mutants were designed following the newly established secondary structure of this viral RNA fragment. We showed that deletion of the 3'-SL-A1 stem loop significantly reduced the level of RNA synthesis whereas modifications performed in the SL-B1 stem loop increased RNA synthesis. Study of the region encompassing the 341 nucleotides of the 3'-end of the minus-strand RNA shows that these two hairpins play a very limited role in binding to the viral polymerase. On the contrary, deletions of sequences in the 5'-end of this fragment greatly impaired both RNA synthesis and RNA binding. Our results strongly suggest that several domains of the 341 nucleotide region of the minus-strand 3'-end interact with HCV RdRp during in vitro RNA synthesis, in particular the region located between nucleotides 219 and 239.

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