Host cell factors are critical to all stages of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) life cycle. While many cellular proteins that regulate HCV genome synthesis have been identified, the mechanisms engaged in this process are incompletely understood. To identify novel cellular proteins involved in HCV RNA replication, we screened a library of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeting 299 cellular factors, which principally function in RNA interactions. For the screen, a robust system was established using two cell lines (derived from Huh-7 and U2OS cells) that replicated tricistronic subgenomic replicons (SGRs). We found that the U2OS cell line gave lower levels of intracellular HCV RNA replication compared with Huh-7 cells and was more readily transfected by siRNAs. Consequently, increased gene silencing and greater effects on HCV replication were observed in the U2OS cell line. Thus, U2OS cells provided a suitable and more sensitive alternative to Huh-7 cells for siRNA studies on HCV RNA replication. From the screen, several cellular proteins that enhanced and suppressed HCV RNA replication were identified. One of the genes found to downregulate viral RNA synthesis, ISG15, is expressed in response to alpha interferon and may therefore partly contribute to the clearance of virus from infected individuals. A second gene that inhibited HCV RNA levels was the 5′–3′ exoRNase XRN1, which suggested a role for cellular RNA degradation pathways in modulating the abundance of viral genomes. Therefore, this study provides an important framework for future detailed analyses of these and other cellular proteins.


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vol. , part 9, pp. 2238 - 2248

Genes from plate 1

Genes from plate 2

Genes from plate 3

Genes from plate 4

U2OS cells are more effectively transfected than Huh-7 cells

Results from the siRNA library screen [Single PDF file](3284 KB)

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