In addition to NS3 protease, the NS4A protein is required for efficient cleavage of the nonstructural protein region of the hepatitis C virus polyprotein. To investigate the function and the sequence of NS4A required for the enhancement of NS3 protease activity, we developed an in vitro NS3 protease assay system consisting of three purified viral elements: (i) a recombinant NS3 protease which was expressed in Escherichia coli as a maltose-binding protein-NS3 fusion protein (MBP-NS3), (ii) synthetic NS4A fragments, and (iii) a synthetic peptide substrate which mimics the NS5A/5B junction. We showed that the NS3 protease activity of MBP-NS3 was enhanced in a dose-dependent manner by 4A18-40, which is a peptide composed of amino acid residues 18 to 40 of NS4A. The optimal activity was observed at a 10-fold molar excess of 4A18-40 over MBP-NS3. The coefficient for proteolytic efficiency, kcat/Km, of NS3 protease was increased by about 40 times by the addition of a 10-fold molar excess of 4A18-40. Using a series of truncations of 4A18-40, we estimated that amino acid residues 22 to 31 in NS4A (SVVIVGRIIL) constituted the core sequence for the effector activity. Single-substitution experiments with 4A21-34, a peptide composed of amino acid residues 21 to 34 of NS4A, suggested the importance of several residues (Val-23, IIe-25, Gly-27, Arg-28, IIe-29, and Leu-31) for its activity. In addition, we found that some single-amino-acid substitutions in 4A21-34 were able to inhibit the enhancement of NS3 protease activity by 4A18-40. This approach has potential as a novel strategy for inhibiting the NS3 protease activity important for hepatitis C virus proliferation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science