Role of conserved E2 residue W420 in receptor binding and hepatitis C virus infection

Vanessa M. Cowton, Allan G.N. Angus, Sarah J. Cole, Christina K. Markopoulou, Ania Owsianka, James I. Dunlop, Deborah E. Gardner, Thomas Krey, Arvind H. Patel*

*Corresponding author for this work
15 Citations (Scopus)


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) enters cells via interactions with several host factors, a key one being that between the viral E2 envelope glycoprotein and the CD81 receptor. We previously identified E2 tryptophan residue 420 (W420) as an essential CD81-binding residue. However, the importance of W420 in the context of the native virion is unknown, as those previous studies predate the infectious HCV cell culture (cell culture-derived HCV [HCVcc]) system. Here, we introduced four separate mutations (F, Y, A, or R) at position 420 within the infectious HCVcc JFH-1 genome and characterized their effects on the viral life cycle. While all mutations reduced E2-CD81 binding, only two (W420A and W420R) reduced HCVcc infectivity. Further analyses of mutants with hydrophobic residues (F or Y) found that interactions with the receptors SR-BI and CD81 were modulated, which in turn determined the viral uptake route. Both mutant viruses were significantly less dependent on SR-BI, and its lipid transfer activity, for virus entry. Furthermore, these viruses were resistant to the drug erlotinib, which targets epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) (a host cofactor for HCV entry) and also blocks SR-BI-dependent high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-mediated enhancement of virus entry. Together, our data indicate a model where an alteration at position 420 causes a subtle change in the E2 conformation that prevents interaction with SR-BI and increases accessibility to the CD81-binding site, in turn favoring a particular internalization route. These results further show that a hydrophobic residue with a strong preference for tryptophan at position 420 is important, both functionally and structurally, to provide an additional hydrophobic anchor to stabilize the E2-CD81 interaction.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number16
Pages (from-to)7456-7468
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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