Background: Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection is a leading indication for liver transplantation. HCV infection reoccurs almost universally post transplant, decreasing both graft longevity and patient survival. The immunosuppressant, cyclosporine A (CsA) has potent anti-HCV activity towards both HCV replicons and the genotype 2a cell culture infectious virus. Previously, we isolated mutations in the 1bN replicon with less sensitivity to CsA that mapped to both NS5A and NS5B regions of the virus. Mutations in NS5A alone conferred decreased CsA susceptibility regardless of NS5B mutations.
Methodology/principal findings: We examined the mechanisms by which NS5A mutations contribute to CsA resistance and if they are strain dependent. Using in vitro mutagenesis, the amino acid position 321 mutation of NS5A was restored to the wild-type tyrosine residue conferring partial CsA susceptibility on the mutant replicon. The 321 mutation also alters CsA susceptibility of the JFH cell culture virus. Additionally, we demonstrated a novel CsA-sensitive interaction between NS5A and both cyclophilin A and B. Both the mutant NS5A and wild type NS5A bind cyclophilin in vitro. The NS5A: cyclophilin interaction requires both the NS5A region identified by the resistance mutants and cyclophilin catalytic residues. In cell culture, NS5A from CsA resistant mutant has an enhanced interaction with cyclophilin B. Additionally; NS5B facilitates a stronger binding of mutant NS5A to endogenous cyclophilin B than wild-type in cell culture.
Conclusions/significance: Collectively, this data suggests direct interactions between cyclophilins and NS5A are critical to understand for optimal use of cyclophilin inhibitors in anti-HCV therapy.