Recently, we found that sphingomyelin bound and activated hepatitis C virus (HCV) 1b RNA polymerase (RdRp), thereby recruiting the HCV replication complex into lipid raft structures. Detergents are commonly used for resolving lipids and purifying proteins, including HCV RdRp. Here, we tested the effect of detergents on HCV RdRp activity in vitro and found that non-ionic (Triton X-100, NP-40, Tween 20, Tween 80, and Brij 35) and twitterionic (CHAPS) detergents activated HCV 1b RdRps by 8-16.6 folds, but did not affect 1a or 2a RdRps. The maximum effect of these detergents was observed at around their critical micelle concentrations. On the other hand, ionic detergents (SDS and DOC) completely inactivated polymerase activity at 0.01%. In the presence of Triton X-100, HCV 1b RdRp did not form oligomers, but recruited more template RNA and increased the speed of polymerization. Comparison of polymerase and RNA-binding activity between JFH1 RdRp and Triton X-100-activated 1b RdRp indicated that monomer RdRp showed high activity because JFH1 RdRp was a monomer in physiological conditions of transcription. Besides, 502H plays a key role on oligomerization of 1b RdRp, while 2a RdRps which have the amino acid S at position 502 are monomers. This oligomer formed by 502H was disrupted both by high salt and Triton X-100. On the contrary, HCV 1b RdRp completely lost fidelity in the presence of 0.02% Triton X-100, which suggests that caution should be exercised while using Triton X-100 in anti-HCV RdRp drug screening tests.
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