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J Virol. 2011 Aug;85(16):7954-64. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00339-11. Epub 2011 Jun 1.

Poly(C)-binding protein 2 interacts with sequences required for viral replication in the hepatitis C virus (HCV) 5' untranslated region and directs HCV RNA replication through circularizing the viral genome.

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Graduate Institute of Microbiology, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei 100, Taiwan.


Sequences in the 5' untranslated region (5'UTR) of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA is important for modulating both translation and RNA replication. The translation of the HCV genome depends on an internal ribosome entry site (IRES) located within the 341-nucleotide 5'UTR, while RNA replication requires a smaller region. A question arises whether the replication and translation functions require different regions of the 5'UTR and different sets of RNA-binding proteins. Here, we showed that the 5'-most 157 nucleotides of HCV RNA is the minimum 5'UTR for RNA replication, and it partially overlaps with the IRES. Stem-loops 1 and 2 of the 5'UTR are essential for RNA replication, whereas stem-loop 1 is not required for translation. We also found that poly(C)-binding protein 2 (PCBP2) bound to the replication region of the 5'UTR and associated with detergent-resistant membrane fractions, which are the sites of the HCV replication complex. The knockdown of PCBP2 by short hairpin RNA decreased the amounts of HCV RNA and nonstructural proteins. Antibody-mediated blocking of PCBP2 reduced HCV RNA replication in vitro, indicating that PCBP2 is directly involved in HCV RNA replication. Furthermore, PCBP2 knockdown reduced IRES-dependent translation preferentially from a dual reporter plasmid, suggesting that PCBP2 also regulated IRES activity. These findings indicate that PCBP2 participates in both HCV RNA replication and translation. Moreover, PCBP2 interacts with HCV 5'- and 3'UTR RNA fragments to form an RNA-protein complex and induces the circularization of HCV RNA, as revealed by electron microscopy. This study thus demonstrates the mechanism of the participation of PCBP2 in HCV translation and replication and provides physical evidence for HCV RNA circularization through 5'- and 3'UTR interaction.

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