Hepatitis C virus polymerase-polymerase contact interface: significance for virus replication and antiviral design

Antiviral Res. 2014 Aug;108:14-24. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2014.04.009. Epub 2014 May 6.


The hepatitis C virus (HCV) replicates its genome in replication complexes located in micro-vesicles derived from endoplasmic reticulum. The composition of these replication complexes indicates that proteins, both viral and cellular in origin, are at high concentrations. Under these conditions, protein-protein interactions must occur although their role in the replication pathways is unknown. HCV RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase (NS5B) initiates RNA synthesis in these vesicles by a de novo (DN) mechanism. After initiation, newly synthesized dsRNA could induce conformational changes that direct the transition from an initiating complex into a processive elongation complex. In this report, we analyze the role played by NS5B-NS5B intermolecular interactions controlling these conformational rearrangements. Based on NS5B protein-protein docking and molecular dynamics simulations, we constructed mutants of residues predicted to be involved in protein-protein interactions. Changes at these positions induced severe defects in both the activity of the enzyme and the replication of a subgenomic replicon. Thus, mutations at the interaction surface decreased both DN synthesis initiation and processive elongation activities. Based on this analysis, we define at an atomic level an NS5B homomeric interaction model that connects the T-helix in the thumb subdomain of one monomer, with the F-helix of the fingers subdomain in other monomer. Knowing the molecular determinants involved in viral replication could be helpful to delineate new and powerful antiviral strategies.

Keywords: Antiviral drugs; HCV; NS5B; Protein–protein interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antiviral Agents / metabolism*
  • Drug Design
  • Hepacivirus / chemistry
  • Hepacivirus / enzymology*
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepacivirus / physiology*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Mutant Proteins / chemistry
  • Mutant Proteins / genetics
  • Mutant Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Multimerization*
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Replication*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Mutant Proteins
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins
  • NS-5 protein, hepatitis C virus