RNA aptamer-mediated interference of HCV replication by targeting the CRE-5BSL3.2 domain


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Abstract

SUMMARY.The RNA genome of hepatitis C virus (HCV) contains multiple conserved structural RNA domains that play key roles in essential viral processes. A conserved structural component within the 3′ end of the region coding for viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (NS5B) has been characterized as a functional cis-acting replication element (CRE). This study reports the ability of two RNA aptamers, P-58 and P-78, to interfere with HCV replication by targeting the essential 5BSL3.2 domain within this CRE. Structure-probing assays showed the binding of the aptamers to the CRE results in a structural reorganization of the apical portion of the 5BSL3.2 stem-loop domain. This interfered with the binding of the NS5B protein to the CRE and induced a significant reduction in HCV replication (≈50%) in an autonomous subgenomic HCV replication system. These results highlight the potential of this CRE as a target for the development of anti-HCV therapies and underscore the potential of antiviral agents based on RNA aptamer molecules.

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