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J Virol. 2011 Feb;85(4):1706-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02268-10. Epub 2010 Dec 8.

Hepatitis C virus NS2 coordinates virus particle assembly through physical interactions with the E1-E2 glycoprotein and NS3-NS4A enzyme complexes.

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Section of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale University School of Medicine, 295 Congress Ave, New Haven, Connecticut 06536, USA.


The hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS2 protein is essential for particle assembly, but its function in this process is unknown. We previously identified critical genetic interactions between NS2 and the viral E1-E2 glycoprotein and NS3-NS4A enzyme complexes. Based on these data, we hypothesized that interactions between these viral proteins are essential for HCV particle assembly. To identify interaction partners of NS2, we developed methods to site-specifically biotinylate NS2 in vivo and affinity capture NS2-containing protein complexes from virus-producing cells with streptavidin magnetic beads. By using these methods, we confirmed that NS2 physically interacts with E1, E2, and NS3 but did not stably interact with viral core or NS5A proteins. We further characterized these protein complexes by blue native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and identified ≈ 520-kDa and ≈ 680-kDa complexes containing E2, NS2, and NS3. The formation of NS2 protein complexes was dependent on coexpression of the viral p7 protein and enhanced by cotranslation of viral proteins as a polyprotein. Further characterization indicated that the glycoprotein complex interacts with NS2 via E2, and the pattern of N-linked glycosylation on E1 and E2 suggested that these interactions occur in the early secretory pathway. Importantly, several mutations that inhibited virus assembly were shown to inhibit NS2 protein complex formation, and NS2 was essential for mediating the interaction between E2 and NS3. These studies demonstrate that NS2 plays a central organizing role in HCV particle assembly by bringing together viral structural and nonstructural proteins.

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