Core plays a critical role during HCV assembly, not only as a structural component of the virion, but also as a regulator of the formation of assembly sites. In this study, we observed that core is expressed later than other HCV proteins in a single viral cycle assay, resulting in a relative increase of core expression during a late step of the viral life cycle. This delayed core expression results from an increase of core half-life, indicating that core is initially degraded and is stabilized at a late step of the HCV life cycle. A stabilization-mediated delayed kinetics of core expression was also observed using heterologous expression systems. Core stabilization did not depend on its interaction with non-structural proteins or lipid droplets but was correlated to its expression levels and its oligomerization status. Therefore in the course of a HCV infection, core stabilization likely occurs when the prior amplification of the viral genome during an initial replication step allows core to be synthesized at higher levels as a stable protein during the assembly step of the viral life cycle.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is a major causative agent for chronic liver disease worldwide. Hepatic steatosis is a frequent histological feature in patients with chronic HCV. Both host and viral factors are involved in steatosis development. It results from uncontrolled growth of cytoplasmic lipid droplets (LDs) in hepatocytes. LDs are intracellular organelles playing key role in the HCV life cycle. HCV core protein localizes at the LD surface and this localization is crucial for virion production.
Preventing viral entry into cells is a recognized approach for HIV therapy and has attracted attention for use against the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Recent reports described the activity of (-)-epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) as an inhibitor of HCV entry with modest potency. EGCG is a polyphenolic natural product with a wide range of biological activity and unfavorable pharmaceutical properties. In an attempt to identify more drug-like EGCG derivatives with improved efficacy as HCV entry inhibitors, we initiated structure-activity investigations using semi-synthetic and synthetic EGCG analogs. The data show that there are multiple regions in the EGCG structure that contribute to activity. The gallate ester portion of the molecule appears to be of particular importance as a 3,4-difluoro analog of EGCG enhanced potency. This derivative and other active compounds were shown not to be cytotoxic in Huh-7 cell culture. These data suggest that more potent, non-cytotoxic EGCG analogs can be prepared in an attempt to identify more drug-like candidates to treat HCV infection by this mechanism.
The fat mass and obesity associated (FTO) gene is related to obesity and type 2 diabetes, but its function is still largely unknown. A link between leptin receptor-signal transducers and activators of transcription 3 (LepR-STAT3) signalling pathway and FTO was recently suggested in the hypothalamus. Because of the presence of FTO in liver and the role of LepR-STAT3 in the control of hepatic metabolism, we investigated both in vitro and in vivo the potential interrelationship between FTO and LepR-STAT3 signalling pathway in liver and the impact of FTO overexpression on leptin action and glucose homeostasis in liver of mice.
Recent reports indicate that the replication of hepatitis C virus (HCV) depends on the GBF1-Arf1-COP-I pathway. We generated Huh-7-derived cell lines resistant to brefeldin A (BFA), which is an inhibitor of this pathway. The resistant cell lines could be sorted into two phenotypes regarding BFA-induced toxicity, inhibition of albumin secretion, and inhibition of HCV infection. Two cell lines were more than 100 times more resistant to BFA than the parental Huh-7 cells in these 3 assays. This resistant phenotype was correlated with the presence of a point mutation in the Sec7 domain of GBF1, which is known to impair the binding of BFA. Surprisingly, the morphology of the cis-Golgi of these cells remained sensitive to BFA at concentrations of the drug that allowed albumin secretion, indicating a dichotomy between the phenotypes of secretion and Golgi morphology. Cells of the second group were about 10 times more resistant than parental Huh-7 cells to the BFA-induced toxicity. The EC50 for albumin secretion was only 1.5-1.8 fold higher in these cells than in Huh-7 cells. However their level of secretion in the presence of inhibitory doses of BFA was 5 to 15 times higher. Despite this partially effective secretory pathway in the presence of BFA, the HCV infection was almost as sensitive to BFA as in Huh-7 cells. This suggests that the function of GBF1 in HCV replication does not simply reflect its role of regulator of the secretory pathway of the host cell. Thus, our results confirm the involvement of GBF1 in HCV replication, and suggest that GBF1 might fulfill another function, in addition to the regulation of the secretory pathway, during HCV replication.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) assembly process is the least understood step in the virus life cycle. The functional data revealed by forward and reverse genetics indicated that both structural and non-structural proteins are involved in the assembly process. Using confocal and electron microscopy different groups determined the subcellular localization of different viral proteins and they identified the lipid droplets (LDs) as the potential viral assembly site. Here, we aim to review the mechanisms that govern the viral proteins recruitment to LDs and discuss the current model of HCV assembly process. Based on previous examples, this review will also discuss advanced imaging techniques as potential means to extend our present knowledge of HCV assembly process.
Cytoplasmic inclusions are found in a variety of diseases that are characteristic morphological features of several hepatic, muscular and neurodegenerative disorders. They display a predominantly filamentous ultrastructure that is also observed in malignant rhabdoid tumor (MRT). A cellular clone containing an intracytoplasmic body was isolated from hepatocyte cell culture, and in the present study we examined whether this body might be related or not to Mallory-Denk body (MDB), a well characterized intracytoplasmic inclusion, or whether this cellular clone was constituted by malignant rhabdoid tumor cells. The intracytoplasmic body was observed in electron microscopy (EM), confocal immunofluorescence microscopy and several proteins involved in the formation of its structure were identified. Using light microscopy, a spheroid body (SB) described as a single regular-shaped cytoplasmic body was observed in cells. During cytokinesis, the SB was disassembled and reassembled in a way to reconstitute a unique SB in each progeny cell. EM examination revealed that the SB was not surrounded by a limiting membrane. However, cytoplasmic filaments were concentrated in a whorled array. These proteins were identified as keratins 8 and 18 (K8/K18), which formed the central core of the SB surrounded by a vimentin cage-like structure. This structure was not related to Mallory-Denk body or aggresome since no aggregated proteins were located in SB. Moreover, the structure of SB was not due to mutations in the primary sequence of K8/K18 and vimentin since no difference was observed in the mRNA sequence of their genes, isolated from Huh-7 and Huh-7w7.3 cells. These data suggested that cellular factor(s) could be responsible for the SB formation process. Aggregates of K18 were relocated in the SB when a mutant of K18 inducing disruption of K8/K18 IF network was expressed in the cellular clone. Furthermore, the INI1 protein, a remodeling-chromatin factor deficient in rhabdoid cells, which contain a spheroid perinuclear inclusion body, was found in our cellular clone. In conclusion, our data suggest that Huh-7w7.3 cells constitute an excellent model for determining the cellular factor(s) involved in the process of spheroid perinuclear body formation.
Endospanin-1 is a negative regulator of the cell surface expression of leptin receptor (OB-R), and endospanin-2 is a homologue of unknown function. We investigated the mechanism for endospanin-1 action in regulating OB-R cell surface expression. Here we show that endospanin-1 and -2 are small integral membrane proteins that localize in endosomes and the trans-Golgi network. Antibody uptake experiments showed that both endospanins are transported to the plasma membrane and then internalized into early endosomes but do not recycle back to the trans-Golgi network. Overexpression of endospanin-1 or endospanin-2 led to a decrease of OB-R cell surface expression, whereas shRNA-mediated depletion of each protein increased OB-R cell surface expression. This increased cell surface expression was not observed with OB-Ra mutants defective in endocytosis or with transferrin and EGF receptors. Endospanin-1 or endospanin-2 depletion did not change the internalization rate of OB-Ra but slowed down its lysosomal degradation. Thus, both endospanins are regulators of postinternalization membrane traffic of the endocytic pathway of OB-R.
Growing experimental evidence indicates that, in addition to the physical virion components, the non-structural proteins of hepatitis C virus (HCV) are intimately involved in orchestrating morphogenesis. Since it is dispensable for HCV RNA replication, the non-structural viral protein NS2 is suggested to play a central role in HCV particle assembly. However, despite genetic evidences, we have almost no understanding about NS2 protein-protein interactions and their role in the production of infectious particles. Here, we used co-immunoprecipitation and/or fluorescence resonance energy transfer with fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy analyses to study the interactions between NS2 and the viroporin p7 and the HCV glycoprotein E2. In addition, we used alanine scanning insertion mutagenesis as well as other mutations in the context of an infectious virus to investigate the functional role of NS2 in HCV assembly. Finally, the subcellular localization of NS2 and several mutants was analyzed by confocal microscopy. Our data demonstrate molecular interactions between NS2 and p7 and E2. Furthermore, we show that, in the context of an infectious virus, NS2 accumulates over time in endoplasmic reticulum-derived dotted structures and colocalizes with both the envelope glycoproteins and components of the replication complex in close proximity to the HCV core protein and lipid droplets, a location that has been shown to be essential for virus assembly. We show that NS2 transmembrane region is crucial for both E2 interaction and subcellular localization. Moreover, specific mutations in core, envelope proteins, p7 and NS5A reported to abolish viral assembly changed the subcellular localization of NS2 protein. Together, these observations indicate that NS2 protein attracts the envelope proteins at the assembly site and it crosstalks with non-structural proteins for virus assembly.
A major function of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein is the interaction with genomic RNA to form the nucleocapsid, an essential component of the virus particle. Analyses to identify basic amino acid residues of HCV core protein, important for capsid assembly, were initially performed with a cell-free system, which did not indicate the importance of these residues for HCV infectivity. The development of a cell culture system for HCV (HCVcc) allows a more precise analysis of these core protein amino acids during the HCV life cycle. In the present study, we used a mutational analysis in the context of the HCVcc system to determine the role of the basic amino acid residues of the core protein in HCV infectivity. We focused our analysis on basic residues located in two clusters (cluster 1, amino acids [aa]6 to 23; cluster 2, aa 39 to 62) within the N-terminal 62 amino acids of the HCV core protein. Our data indicate that basic residues of the first cluster have little impact on replication and are dispensable for infectivity. Furthermore, only four basic amino acids residues of the second cluster (R50, K51, R59, and R62) were essential for the production of infectious viral particles. Mutation of these residues did not interfere with core protein subcellular localization, core protein-RNA interaction, or core protein oligomerization. Moreover, these mutations had no effect on core protein envelopment by intracellular membranes. Together, these data indicate that R50, K51, R59, and R62 residues play a major role in the formation of infectious viral particles at a post-nucleocapsid assembly step.
In infected cells, hepatitis C virus (HCV) induces the formation of membrane alterations referred to as membranous webs, which are sites of RNA replication. In addition, HCV RNA replication also occurs in smaller membrane structures that are associated with the endoplasmic reticulum. However, cellular mechanisms involved in the formation of HCV replication complexes remain largely unknown. Here, we used brefeldin A (BFA) to investigate cellular mechanisms involved in HCV infection. BFA acts on cell membranes by interfering with the activation of several members of the family of ADP-ribosylation factors (ARF), which can lead to a wide range of inhibitory actions on membrane-associated mechanisms of the secretory and endocytic pathways. Our data show that HCV RNA replication is highly sensitive to BFA. Individual knockdown of the cellular targets of BFA using RNA interference and the use of a specific pharmacological inhibitor identified GBF1, a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for small GTPases of the ARF family, as a host factor critically involved in HCV replication. Furthermore, overexpression of a BFA-resistant GBF1 mutant rescued HCV replication in BFA-treated cells, indicating that GBF1 is the BFA-sensitive factor required for HCV replication. Finally, immunofluorescence and electron microscopy analyses indicated that BFA does not block the formation of membranous web-like structures induced by expression of HCV proteins in a nonreplicative context, suggesting that GBF1 is probably involved not in the formation of HCV replication complexes but, rather, in their activity. Altogether, our results highlight a functional connection between the early secretory pathway and HCV RNA replication.
Yellow fever virus (YFV) encodes two envelope proteins, pre-membrane (prM) and envelope (E), that accumulate in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The C termini of prM and E form two antiparallel transmembrane alpha-helices that contain ER-retention signals. To understand further the ER retention of the prME heterodimer, we characterized the subcellular localization of chimeric proteins made of a reporter protein fused to the transmembrane segments of YFV envelope proteins. We showed that at least three of the transmembrane segments of the prME heterodimer are ER-retention signals. Interestingly, increasing the length of these alpha-helices led to the export of the chimeric proteins out of the ER. Furthermore, adding a diacidic export signal at the C terminus of the first transmembrane segment of the E protein also induced export to the cell surface. However, adding this export signal at the C terminus of the first transmembrane segment of E in the context of prME did not change the subcellular localization of the prME heterodimer, suggesting the presence of a stronger ER-retention signal outside the first transmembrane segment of E. Importantly, the diacidic export motif added to the C terminus of the first transmembrane segment of the prM protein was not sufficient to export a chimeric protein out of the ER, indicating that this sequence is a dominant ER-retention signal. Together, these data indicate that a combination of several signals of different strengths contributes to the ER retention of the YFV envelope protein heterodimer.
Growth hormone (GH) is a major metabolic regulator that functions by stimulating lipolysis, preventing protein catabolism, and decreasing insulin-dependent glucose disposal. Modulation of hepatic sensitivity to GH and the downstream effects on the GH/IGF1 axis are important events in the regulation of metabolism in response to variations in food availability. For example, during periods of reduced nutrient availability, the liver becomes resistant to GH actions. However, the mechanisms controlling hepatic GH resistance are currently unknown. Here, we investigated the role of 2 tetraspanning membrane proteins, leptin receptor overlapping transcript (LEPROT; also known as OB-RGRP) and LEPROT-like 1 (LEPROTL1), in controlling GH sensitivity. Transgenic mice expressing either human LEPROT or human LEPROTL1 displayed growth retardation, reduced plasma IGF1 levels, and impaired hepatic sensitivity to GH, as measured by STAT5 phosphorylation and Socs2 mRNA expression. These phenotypes were accentuated in transgenic mice expressing both proteins. Moreover, gene silencing of either endogenous Leprot or Leprotl1 in H4IIE hepatocytes increased GH signaling and enhanced cell-surface GH receptor. Importantly, we found that both LEPROT and LEPROTL1 expression were regulated in the mouse liver by physiologic and pathologic changes in glucose homeostasis. Together, these data provide evidence that LEPROT and LEPROTL1 influence liver GH signaling and that regulation of the genes encoding these proteins may constitute a molecular link between nutritional signals and GH actions on body growth and metabolism.
Hepatitis C is a major global health burden with an estimated 160 million infected individuals worldwide. This long-term disease evolves slowly, often leading to chronicity and potentially to liver failure. There is no anti-HCV vaccine, and, until recently, the only treatment available, based on pegylated interferon and ribavirin, was partially effective, and had considerable side effects. With recent advances in the understanding of the HCV life cycle, the development of promising direct acting antivirals (DAAs) has been achieved. Their use in combination with the current treatment has led to encouraging results for HCV genotype 1 patients. However, this therapy is quite expensive and will probably not be accessible for all patients worldwide. For this reason, constant efforts are being made to identify new antiviral molecules. Recent reports about natural compounds highlight their antiviral activity against HCV. Here, we aim to review the natural molecules that interfere with the HCV life cycle and discuss their potential use in HCV therapy.
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