Since one of us co-authored a review on NS5A a decade ago, the hepatitis C virus (HCV) field has changed dramatically, primarily due to the advent of the JFH-1 cell culture infectious clone, which allowed the study of all aspects of the virus life cycle from entry to exit. This review will describe advances in our understanding of NS5A biology over the past decade, highlighting how the JFH-1 system has allowed us to determine that NS5A is essential not only in genome replication but also in the assembly of infectious virions. We shall review the recent structural insights - NS5A is predicted to comprise three domains; X-ray crystallography has revealed the structure of domain I but there is a lack of detailed structural information about the other two domains, which are predicted to be largely unstructured. Recent insights into the phosphorylation of NS5A will be discussed, and we shall highlight a few pertinent examples from the ever-expanding list of NS5A-binding partners identified over the past decade. Lastly, we shall review the literature showing that NS5A is a potential target for a new class of highly potent small molecules that function to inhibit virus replication. These direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) are now either licensed, or in the late stages of approval for clinical use both in the USA and in the UK/Europe. In combination with other DAAs targeting the viral protease (NS3) and polymerase (NS5B), they are revolutionizing treatment for HCV infection.
© 2015 The Authors.