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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2008 Feb;52(2):393-401. Epub 2007 Nov 26.

NS3 Peptide, a novel potent hepatitis C virus NS3 helicase inhibitor: its mechanism of action and antiviral activity in the replicon system.

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Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics PAS, ul. Pawinskiego 5a, 02-106 Warsaw, Poland.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) chronic infections represent one of the major and still unresolved health problems because of low efficiency and high cost of current therapy. Therefore, our studies centered on a viral protein, the NS3 helicase, whose activity is indispensable for replication of the viral RNA, and on its peptide inhibitor that corresponds to a highly conserved arginine-rich sequence of domain 2 of the helicase. The NS3 peptide (p14) was expressed in bacteria. Its 50% inhibitory activity in a fluorometric helicase assay corresponded to 725 nM, while the ATPase activity of NS3 was not affected. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) studies of peptide-protein interactions using the relaxation filtering technique revealed that p14 binds directly to the full-length helicase and its separately expressed domain 1 but not to domain 2. Changes in the NMR chemical shift of backbone amide nuclei ((1)H and (15)N) of domain 1 or p14, measured during complex formation, were used to identify the principal amino acids of both domain 1 and the peptide engaged in their interaction. In the proposed interplay model, p14 contacts the clefts between domains 1 and 2, as well as between domains 1 and 3, preventing substrate binding. This interaction is strongly supported by cross-linking experiments, as well as by kinetic studies performed using a fluorometric assay. The antiviral activity of p14 was tested in a subgenomic HCV replicon assay that showed that the peptide at micromolar concentrations can reduce HCV RNA replication.

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