Polyprotein-driven formation of two interdependent sets of complexes supporting hepatitis C virus genome replication

Rafael G.B. Gomes, Olaf Isken, Norbert Tautz, John McLauchlan, Christopher J. McCormick*

*Corresponding author for this work


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) requires proteins from the NS3-NS5B polyprotein to create a replicase unit for replication of its genome. The replicase proteins form membranous compartments in cells to facilitate replication, but little is known about their functional organization within these structures. We recently reported on intragenomic replicons, bicistronic viral transcripts expressing an authentic replicase from open reading frame 2 (ORF2) and a second duplicate nonstructural (NS) polyprotein from ORF1. Using these constructs and other methods, we have assessed the polyprotein requirements for rescue of different lethal point mutations across NS3-5B. Mutations readily tractable to rescue broadly fell into two groupings: Those requiring expression of a minimum NS3-5A and those requiring expression of a minimum NS3-5B polyprotein. A cis-acting mutation that blocked NS3 helicase activity, T1299A, was tolerated when introduced into either ORF within the intragenomic replicon, but unlike many other mutations required the other ORF to express a functional NS3-5B. Three mutations were identified as more refractile to rescue: One that blocked cleavage of the NS4B5A boundary (S1977P), another in the NS3 helicase (K1240N), and a third in NS4A (V1665G). Introduced into ORF1, these exhibited a dominant negative phenotype, but with K1240N inhibiting replication as a minimum NS3-5A polyprotein whereas V1665G and S1977P only impaired replication as a NS3-5B polyprotein. Furthermore, an S1977P-mutated NS3-5A polyprotein complemented other defects shown to be dependent on NS3-5A for rescue. Overall, our findings suggest the existence of two interdependent sets of protein complexes supporting RNA replication, distinguishable by the minimum polyprotein requirement needed for their formation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)2868-2883
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2016

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 204-04 Virology


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