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PLoS Pathog. 2011 Oct;7(10):e1002302. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002302. Epub 2011 Oct 20.

Trafficking of hepatitis C virus core protein during virus particle assembly.

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Section of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein is directed to the surface of lipid droplets (LD), a step that is essential for infectious virus production. However, the process by which core is recruited from LD into nascent virus particles is not well understood. To investigate the kinetics of core trafficking, we developed methods to image functional core protein in live, virus-producing cells. During the peak of virus assembly, core formed polarized caps on large, immotile LDs, adjacent to putative sites of assembly. In addition, LD-independent, motile puncta of core were found to traffic along microtubules. Importantly, core was recruited from LDs into these puncta, and interaction between the viral NS2 and NS3-4A proteins was essential for this recruitment process. These data reveal new aspects of core trafficking and identify a novel role for viral nonstructural proteins in virus particle assembly.

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