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J Gen Virol. 2006 Jul;87(Pt 7):1935-45.

Non-structural protein 4A of Hepatitis C virus accumulates on mitochondria and renders the cells prone to undergoing mitochondria-mediated apoptosis.

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  • 1Division of Microbiology, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0017, Japan.


Non-structural protein 4A (NS4A) of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) functions as a cofactor for NS3 by forming a complex with it to augment its enzymic activities. NS4A also forms a complex with other HCV proteins, such as NS4B/NS5A, to facilitate the formation of the viral RNA replication complex on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane. In addition to its essential role in HCV replication, NS4A is thought to be involved in viral pathogenesis by affecting cellular functions. In this study, it was demonstrated that NS4A was localized not only on the ER, but also on mitochondria when expressed either alone or together with NS3 in the form of the NS3/4A polyprotein and in the context of HCV RNA replication in Huh7 cells harbouring an HCV RNA replicon. Moreover, NS4A expression altered the intracellular distribution of mitochondria significantly and caused mitochondrial damage, as evidenced by the collapsed mitochondrial transmembrane potential and release of cytochrome c into the cytoplasm, which led ultimately to induction of apoptosis through activation of caspase-3, but not caspase-8. Consistently, Huh7 cells expressing NS3/4A and those harbouring an HCV RNA replicon were shown to be more prone to undergoing actinomycin D-induced, mitochondria-mediated apoptosis, compared with the control Huh7 cells. Taken together, these results suggest the possibility that HCV exerts cytopathic effect (CPE) on the infected cells under certain conditions and that NS4A is responsible, at least in part, for the conditional CPE in HCV-infected cells.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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