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J Gen Virol. 2013 Oct;94(Pt 10):2236-48. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.054338-0. Epub 2013 Aug 1.

Mutations in hepatitis C virus p7 reduce both the egress and infectivity of assembled particles via impaired proton channel function.

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Leeds Institute of Cancer & Pathology and Leeds CRUK Clinical Centre, Faculty of Medicine and Health, St James's University Hospital, University of Leeds, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS9 7TF, UK.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) p7 protein is critical for the efficient production of infectious virions in culture. p7 undergoes genotype-specific protein-protein interactions as well as displaying channel-forming activity, making it unclear whether the phenotypes of deleterious p7 mutations result from the disruption of one or both of these functions. Here, we showed that proton channel activity alone, provided in trans by either influenza virus M2 or genotype 1b HCV p7, was both necessary and sufficient to restore infectious particle production to genotype 2a HCV (JFH-1 isolate) carrying deleterious p7 alanine substitutions within the p7 dibasic loop (R33A, R35A), and the N-terminal trans-membrane region (N15 : C16 : H17/AAA). Both mutations markedly reduced mature p7 abundance, with those in the dibasic loop also significantly reducing levels of mature E2 and NS2. Interestingly, whilst M2 and genotype 1b p7 restored the same level of intracellular infectivity as JFH-1 p7, supplementing with the isogenic protein led to a further increase in secreted infectivity, suggesting a late-acting role for genotype-specific p7 protein interactions. Finally, cells infected by viruses carrying p7 mutations contained non-infectious core-containing particles with densities equivalent to WT HCV, indicating a requirement for p7 proton channel activity in conferring an infectious phenotype to virions.

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