The non-structural protein 5A (NS5A) of some hepatitis C virus (HCV) isolates has been implicated in the inhibition of the antiviral activity of interferon (IFN). In the present study, the possible inhibitory effects of NS5A from two isolates of HCV subtype 1b, HCV-1bJk and M094AJk, and their chimeric form on the antiviral activity of IFN were examined. HCV-1bJk and M094AJk are categorized as IFN resistant and IFN sensitive, respectively, based on the sequences of the IFN-sensitivity determining region (ISDR). When encephalomyocarditis virus was used as a challenge virus, NS5A was shown to eliminate the antiviral activity of IFN, with inhibition being more prominent with HCV-1bJk NS5A than with M094AJk NS5A. Moreover, the inhibition was significantly weaker in cells expressing a chimeric NS5A that had a short stretch of 49 amino acids (aa 2209-2257), including the ISDR sequence, from M094AJk in the backbone of the HCV-1bJk sequence than in cells expressing the original NS5A from HCV-1bJk. These results suggest an important role for the 49 aa sequence, including the ISDR, in the inhibition of IFN-mediated antiviral activity. On the other hand, only a slight reduction of IFN antiviral activity by HCV-1bJk NS5A was observed when vesicular stomatitis virus was used as a challenge virus, and barely any reduction was observed when Japanese encephalitis virus was used. These results may reflect differential importance of each of the IFN-mediated signalling pathways in conferring resistance against different viruses.


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