Use of the fused NS4A peptide-NS3 protease domain to study the importance of the helicase domain for protease inhibitor binding to hepatitis C virus NS3-NS4A.
ABSTRACT The NS3 protein of hepatitis C virus is unusual because it encodes two unrelated enzymatic activities in linked protease and helicase domains. It has also been intensively studied because inhibitors targeting its protease domain have potential to significantly improve treatment options for those infected with this virus. Many enzymological studies and inhibitor discovery programs have been carried out using the isolated protease domain in complex with a peptide derived from NS4A which stimulates activity. However, some recent publications have suggested that the NS3 helicase domain may influence inhibitor binding and thus suggest work should focus on the full-length NS3-NS4A protein. Here we present the characterization of a single-chain protease in which the NS4A peptide activator is linked to the N-terminus of the NS3 protease domain. This protein behaves well in solution, and its protease activity is very similar to that of full-length NS3-NS4A. We find that this fusion protein, as well as the noncovalent complex of the NS4A peptide with NS3, gives similar Ki values, spanning 3 orders of magnitude, for a set of 25 structurally diverse inhibitors. We also show that simultaneous mutation of three residues on the surface of the helicase domain which has been hypothesized to interact with the protease does not significantly affect enzymatic activity or inhibitor binding. Thus, the protease domain with the NS4A peptide, in a covalent or noncovalent complex, is a good model for the protease activity of native NS3-NS4A.
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ABSTRACT: The nonstructural protein 3 (NS3) from the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is responsible for processing the non-structural region of the viral precursor polyprotein in infected hepatic cells. NS3 protease activity, located at the N-terminal domain, is a zinc-dependent serine protease. A zinc ion, required for the hydrolytic activity, has been considered as a structural metal ion essential for the structural integrity of the protein. In addition, NS3 interacts with another cofactor, NS4A, an accessory viral protein that induces a conformational change enhancing the hydrolytic activity. Biophysical studies on the isolated protease domain, whose behavior is similar to that of the full-length protein (e.g., catalytic activity, allosteric mechanism and susceptibility to inhibitors), suggest that a considerable global conformational change in the protein is coupled to zinc binding. Zinc binding to NS3 protease can be considered as a folding event, an extreme case of induced-fit binding. Therefore, NS3 protease is an intrinsically (partially) disordered protein with a complex conformational landscape due to its inherent plasticity and to the interaction with its different effectors. Here we summarize the results from a detailed biophysical characterization of this enzyme and present new experimental data.International Journal of Molecular Sciences 06/2013; 14(7):13282-306. · 2.46 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The nonstructural protein 3 (NS3) from the hepatitis C virus processes the non-structural region of the viral precursor polyprotein in infected hepatic cells. The NS3 protease activity has been considered a target for drug development since its identification two decades ago. Although specific inhibitors have been approved for clinical therapy very recently, resistance-associated mutations have already been reported for those drugs, compromising their long-term efficacy. Therefore, there is an urgent need for new anti-HCV agents with low susceptibility to resistance-associated mutations. Regarding NS3 protease, two strategies have been followed: competitive inhibitors blocking the active site and allosteric inhibitors blocking the binding of the accessory viral protein NS4A. In this work we exploit the intrinsic Zn(+2)-regulated plasticity of the protease to identify a new type of allosteric inhibitors. In the absence of Zn(+2), the NS3 protease adopts a partially-folded inactive conformation. We found ligands binding to the Zn(+2)-free NS3 protease, trap the inactive protein, and block the viral life cycle. The efficacy of these compounds has been confirmed in replicon cell assays. Importantly, direct calorimetric assays reveal a low impact of known resistance-associated mutations, and enzymatic assays provide a direct evidence of their inhibitory activity. They constitute new low molecular-weight scaffolds for further optimization and provide several advantages: 1) new inhibition mechanism simultaneously blocking substrate and cofactor interactions in a non-competitive fashion, appropriate for combination therapy; 2) low impact of known resistance-associated mutations; 3) inhibition of NS4A binding, thus blocking its several effects on NS3 protease.PLoS ONE 07/2013; 8(7):e69773. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) non-structural protein 3/4A (NS3/4A) is a bifunctional enzyme comprising two separate domains with protease and helicase activites, which are essential for viral propagation. Both domains are stable and have enzymatic activity separately, and the relevance and implications of having protease and helicase together as a single protein remains to be explored. Altered in vitro activities of isolated domains compared to the full length NS3/4A protein suggest the existence of interdomain communication. The molecular mechanism and extent of this communication was investigated by probing the domain-domain interface observed in HCV NS3/4A crystal structures. We found in molecular dynamics simulations that the two domains of NS3/4A are dynamically coupled through the interface. Interestingly, mutations designed to disrupt this interface did not hinder the catalytic activities of either domain. In contrast, substrate cleavage and DNA unwinding by these mutants were mostly enhanced compared to the wildtype protein. Disrupting the interface did not significantly alter RNA unwinding activity; however, the full-length protein was more efficient in RNA unwinding than the isolated protease domain, suggesting a more direct role in RNA processing independent of the interface. Our findings suggest that HCV NS3/4A adopts an "extended" catalytically active conformation, and interface formation acts as a switch to regulate activity. We propose a unifying model connecting HCV NS3/4A conformational states and protease and helicase function, where interface formation and the dynamic interplay between the two enzymatic domains of HCV NS3/4A potentially modulates the protease and helicase activities in vivo.Protein Science 10/2013; · 2.74 Impact Factor