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This study of the full-length bifunctional nonstructural protein 3 from hepatitis C virus (HCV) has revealed that residues in the helicase domain affect the inhibition of the protease. Two residues (Q526 and H528), apparently located in the interface between the S2 and S4 binding pockets of the substrate binding site of the protease, were selected for modification, and three enzyme variants (Q526A, H528A and H528S) were expressed, purified and characterized. The substitutions resulted in indistinguishable Km values and slightly lower kcat values compared to the wild-type. The Ki values for a series of structurally diverse protease inhibitors were affected by the substitutions, with increases or decreases up to 10-fold. The inhibition profiles for H528A and H528S were different, confirming that not only did the removal of the imidazole side chain have an effect, but also that minor differences in the nature of the introduced side chain influenced the characteristics of the enzyme. These results indicate that residues in the helicase domain of nonstructural protein 3 can influence the protease, supporting our hypothesis that full-length hepatitis C virus nonstructural protein 3 should be used for protease inhibitor optimization and characterization. Furthermore, the data suggest that inhibitors can be designed to interact with residues in the helicase domain, potentially leading to more potent and selective compounds.