Several studies have implicated hepatitis C virus (HCV) core in influencing the expression of host genes. To identify cellular factors with a possible role in HCV replication and pathogenesis, we looked for cellular proteins that interact with the viral core protein. A human liver cDNA library was screened in a yeast two-hybrid assay to identify cellular proteins that bind to core. Several positive clones were isolated, one of which encoded the C-terminal 253 amino acids of a putative RNA helicase, a DEAD box protein designated DDX3. Bacterially expressed glutathione-S-transferase-DDX3 fusion protein specifically pulled down in vitro translated and radiolabeled HCV core, confirming a direct interaction. Immunofluorescent staining of HeLa cells with a polyclonal antiserum showed that DDX3 is located predominantly in nuclear speckles and at low levels throughout the cytoplasm. In cells infected with a recombinant vaccinia virus expressing HCV structural proteins (core, E1, and E2), DDX3 and core colocalized in distinct spots in the perinuclear region of the cytoplasm. The regions of the proteins involved in binding were found by deletion analysis to be the N-terminal 59 amino acid residues of core and a C-terminal RS-like domain of DDX3. The human DDX3 is a putative RNA helicase and a member of a highly conserved DEAD box subclass that includes murine PL10, Xenopus An3, and yeast Ded1 proteins. Their role in RNA metabolism or gene expression is unknown. The significance of core-helicase interaction in HCV replication and pathogenesis is discussed.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.