The hepatitis C virus (HCV) nonstructural protein NS5A is critical for viral genome replication and is thought to interact directly with both the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, NS5B, and viral RNA. NS5A consists of three domains which have, as yet, undefined roles in viral replication and assembly. In order to define the regions that mediate the interaction with RNA, specifically the HCV 3? untranslated region (UTR) positive-strand RNA, constructs of different domain combinations were cloned, bacterially expressed, and purified to homogeneity. Each of these purified proteins was probed for its ability to interact with the 3? UTR RNA using filter binding and gel electrophoretic mobility shift assays, revealing differences in their RNA binding efficiencies and affinities. A specific interaction between domains I and II of NS5A and the 3? UTR RNA was identified, suggesting that these are the RNA binding domains of NS5A. Domain III showed low in vitro RNA binding capacity. Filter binding and competition analyses identified differences between NS5A and NS5B in their specificities for defined regions of the 3? UTR. The preference of NS5A, in contrast to NS5B, for the polypyrimidine tract highlights an aspect of 3? UTR RNA recognition by NS5A which may play a role in the control or enhancement of HCV genome replication.
Foster, T. L., Belyaeva, T., Stonehouse, N. J., Pearson, A. R., & Harris, M. (2010). All three domains of the Hepatitis C virus nonstructural NS5A protein contribute to RNA binding. Journal of Virology, 84(18), 9267-9277. doi:10.1128/jvi.00616-10