Interference of hepatitis C virus replication in cell culture by antisense peptide nucleic acids targeting the X‐RNA

Department of Biotechnology and Translational Research Center for Protein Function Control, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.
Journal of Viral Hepatitis (Impact Factor: 3.91). 07/2011; 18(7):e298-306. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2893.2010.01416.x
Source: PubMed


The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the essential catalytic enzyme for viral genome replication. It initiates minus-strand RNA synthesis from a highly conserved 98-nt sequence, called the X-RNA, at the 3'-end of the plus-strand viral genome. In this study, we evaluated the antiviral effects of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) targeting the X-RNA. Our in vitro RdRp assay results showed that PNAs targeting the three major stem-loop (SL) domains of X-RNA can inhibit RNA synthesis initiation. Delivery of X-RNA-targeted PNAs by fusing the PNAs to cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) into HCV-replicating cells effectively suppressed HCV replication. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays revealed that the PNA targeting the SL3 region at the 5'-end of X-RNA dissociated the viral RdRp from the X-RNA. Furthermore, delivery of the SL3-targeted PNA into HCV-infected cells resulted in the suppression of HCV RNA replication without activation of interferon β expression. Collectively, our results indicate that the HCV X-RNA can be effectively targeted by CPP-fused PNAs to block RNA-protein and/or RNA-RNA interactions essential for viral RNA replication and identify X-RNA SL3 as an RdRp binding site crucial for HCV replication. In addition, the ability to inhibit RNA synthesis initiation by targeting HCV X-RNA using antisense PNAs suggests their promising therapeutic potential against HCV infection.

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