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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Aug 4;106(31):12992-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904848106. Epub 2009 Jul 21.

Structure of the hepatitis E virus-like particle suggests mechanisms for virus assembly and receptor binding.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005, USA.


Hepatitis E virus (HEV), a small, non-enveloped RNA virus in the family Hepeviridae, is associated with endemic and epidemic acute viral hepatitis in developing countries. Our 3.5-A structure of a HEV-like particle (VLP) shows that each capsid protein contains 3 linear domains that form distinct structural elements: S, the continuous capsid; P1, 3-fold protrusions; and P2, 2-fold spikes. The S domain adopts a jelly-roll fold commonly observed in small RNA viruses. The P1 and P2 domains both adopt beta-barrel folds. Each domain possesses a potential polysaccharide-binding site that may function in cell-receptor binding. Sugar binding to P1 at the capsid protein interface may lead to capsid disassembly and cell entry. Structural modeling indicates that native T = 3 capsid contains flat dimers, with less curvature than those of T = 1 VLP. Our findings significantly advance the understanding of HEV molecular biology and have application to the development of vaccines and antiviral medications.

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