The liver-specific microRNA, miR-122, is an essential host factor for replication of the hepatitis C virus (HCV). miR-122 stabilizes the positive-strand HCV RNA genome and promotes its synthesis by binding two sites (S1 and S2) near its 5' end in association with Ago2. Ago2 is essential for both host factor activities, but whether other host proteins are involved is unknown. Using an unbiased quantitative proteomics screen, we identified the TNRC6 protein paralogs, TNRC6B and TNRC6C, as functionally important but redundant components of the miR-122/Ago2 host factor complex. Doubly depleting TNRC6B and TNRC6C proteins reduced HCV replication in human hepatoma cells, dampening miR-122 stimulation of viral RNA synthesis without reducing the stability or translational activity of the viral RNA. TNRC6B/C were required for optimal miR-122 host factor activity only when S1 was able to bind miR-122, and restricted replication when S1 was mutated and only S2 bound by miR-122. TNRC6B/C preferentially associated with S1, and TNRC6B/C depletion enhanced Ago2 association at S2. Collectively, these data suggest a model in which TNRC6B/C regulate the assembly of miR-122/Ago complexes on HCV RNA, preferentially directing miR-122/Ago2 to S1 while restricting its association with S2, thereby fine-tuning the spatial organization of miR-122/Ago2 complexes on the viral genome.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.