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Biochem Pharmacol. 2006 Nov 30;72(11):1477-84. Epub 2006 Jul 31.

Recruitment of an interferon molecular signaling complex to the mitochondrial membrane: disruption by hepatitis C virus NS3-4A protease.

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Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research-Jewish General Hospital, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada H3T 1E2.


Recent advances in the understanding of the signaling pathways leading to the host antiviral response to hepatitis C virus (HCV), the mechanisms used by HCV to evade the immune response, and the development of small molecule inhibitors of HCV have generated optimism that novel therapeutic approaches to control HCV disease may soon be available. HCV infection is detected by the cytoplasmic, RNA helicase RIG-I that plays an essential role in signaling to the host antiviral response. Recently the adapter molecule that links RIG-I sensing of incoming viral RNA to downstream signaling and gene activation events was characterized by four different groups: MAVS/IPS-1-1/VISA/Cardif contains an amino-terminal CARD domain and carboxyl-terminal mitochondrial transmembrane sequence that localizes to the mitochondrial membrane. Furthermore, the hepatitis C virus NS3-4A protease complex specifically targets MAVS/IPS-1/VISA/Cardif for cleavage as part of its immune evasion strategy. Using a combination of biochemical analysis, subcellular fractionation and confocal microscopy, we demonstrate that: (1) NS3-4A cleavage of MAVS/IPS-1/VISA/Cardif causes relocation from the mitochondrial membrane to the cytosolic fraction, resulting in disruption of signaling to the antiviral immune response; (2) disruption requires a function NS3-4A protease; (3) a point mutant of MAVS/IPS-1/VISA/Cardif (Cys508Ala) is not cleaved from the mitochondria by active protease; and (4) the virus-induced IKK epsilon kinase, but not TBK1, co-localizes strongly with MAVS at the mitochondrial membrane and the localization of both molecules is disrupted by NS3-4A expression. These observations provide an outline of the mechanism by which HCV evades the IFN antiviral response.

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