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Eur J Biochem. 1997 Nov 15;250(1):47-54.

DNA helicase activity of the hepatitis C virus nonstructural protein 3.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Taejon.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) nonstructural protein 3 (NS3) is a known RNA helicase, an enzyme that unwinds RNA x DNA and RNA x RNA duplexes. We have now deciphered the biochemical characteristics of the HCV NS3 DNA helicase activity. Recombinant NS3 was expressed in Escherichia coli, purified to near homogeneity, and tested for DNA helicase activity. The optimal conditions for DNA unwinding (for example, the preferred pH and magnesium ion concentration) were similar to those for RNA unwinding. The DNA helicase activity was very sensitive to potassium ion concentration, while DNA binding and DNA-stimulated ATPase activities were not. The direction of DNA unwinding was determined to be 3' to 5'. All four ribonucleoside triphosphates (ATP, GTP, CTP, UTP) and deoxynucleoside triphosphates (dATP, dGTP, dCTP, dTTP) could serve as energy sources, but GTP and dGTP were less efficient than the others. When nucleotide analog inhibitors were added to the DNA helicase reaction, the overall order of inhibitory capacity was: adenosine 5'-O-(3-thiotriphosphate) > adenylyl-imidodiphosphate and adenylyl-(beta,gamma-methylene)-diphosphate > AMP. DNA helicase activity was inhibited strongly by ssDNA and ssRNA, but was little affected by dsDNA. The ATPase activity was stimulated greatly by ssDNA and ssRNA, but not by dsDNA. The NS3 protein could unwind up to 500 base pairs of duplex DNA. The possible multifunctional nature of the NS3 protein is discussed and compared with that of Simian virus 40 large T antigen.

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