1887

Abstract

Infectious hepatitis C virus (HCV) particle production in the genotype 2a JFH-1-based cell culture system involves non-structural proteins in addition to canonical virion components. NS2 has been proposed to act as a protein adaptor, co-ordinating the early stages of virion assembly. However, other studies have identified late-acting roles for this protein, making its precise involvement in infectious particle production unclear. Using a robust, bipartite -encapsidation system based upon baculovirus expression of HCV structural proteins, we have generated HCV-like particles (HCV-LP) in the absence of NS2 with overt similarity to wild-type virions. HCV-LP could transduce naive cells with -encapsidated subgenomic replicon RNAs and shared similar biochemical and biophysical properties with JFH-1 HCV. Both genotype 1b and JFH-1 intracellular HCV-LP were produced in the absence of NS2, whereas restoring NS2 to the JFH-1 system dramatically enhanced secreted infectivity, consistent with a late-acting role. Our system recapitulated authentic HCV particle assembly via -complementation of bicistronic, NS2-deleted, chimeric HCV, which is otherwise deficient in particle production. This closely resembled replicon-mediated NS2 -complementation, confirming that baculovirus expression of HCV proteins did not unduly affect particle production. Furthermore, this suggests that separation of structural protein expression from replicating HCV RNAs that are destined to be packaged alleviates an early stage requirement for NS2 during particle formation. This highlights our current lack of understanding of how NS2 mediates assembly, yet comparison of full-length and bipartite systems may provide further insight into this process.

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2014-11-01
2019-11-16
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