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

Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd., 2100 Cunard Street, Laval, QC, Canada H7S 2G5.
Biochemistry (Impact Factor: 3.02). 02/2009; 48(4):744-53. DOI: 10.1021/bi801931e
Source: PubMed


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 flavivirus genome comprises a single strand of positive-sense RNA, which is translated into a polyprotein and cleaved by a combination of viral and host proteases to yield functional proteins. One of these, nonstructural protein 3 (NS3), is an enzyme with both serine protease and NTPase/helicase activities. NS3 plays a central role in the flavivirus life cycle: the NS3 N-terminal serine protease together with its essential cofactor NS2B is involved in the processing of the polyprotein, whereas the NS3 C-terminal NTPase/helicase is responsible for ATP-dependent RNA strand separation during replication. An unresolved question remains regarding why NS3 appears to encode two apparently disconnected functionalities within one protein. Here we report the 2.75-A-resolution crystal structure of full-length Murray Valley encephalitis virus NS3 fused with the protease activation peptide of NS2B. The biochemical characterization of this construct suggests that the protease has little influence on the helicase activity and vice versa. This finding is in agreement with the structural data, revealing a single protein with two essentially segregated globular domains. Comparison of the structure with that of dengue virus type 4 NS2B-NS3 reveals a relative orientation of the two domains that is radically different between the two structures. Our analysis suggests that the relative domain-domain orientation in NS3 is highly variable and dictated by a flexible interdomain linker. The possible implications of this conformational flexibility for the function of NS3 are discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2009 · Journal of Virology
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    No preview · Article · Oct 2009 · Biochemistry
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    No preview · Article · Jan 2010 · Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
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