Molecular covariation of highly polymorphic viruses is thought to have crucial effects on viral replication and fitness. This study employs association rule data mining of hepatitis C virus (HCV) sequences to search for specific evolutionary covariation and then tests functional relevance on HCV replication. Data mining is performed between nucleotides in the untranslated regions 5′ and 3′UTR, and the amino acid residues in the non-structural proteins NS2, NS3 and NS5B. Results indicate covariance of the 243 rd nucleotide of the 5′UTR with the 14 th, 41 st, 76 th, 110 th, 211 th and 212 th residues of NS2 and with the 71 st, 175 th and 621 st residues of NS3. Real-time experiments using an HCV subgenomic system to quantify viral replication confirm replication regulation for each covariant pair between 5′UTR 243 and NS2-41, -76, -110, -211, and NS3-71, -175. The HCV subgenomic system with/without the NS2 region shows that regulatory effects vanish without NS2, so replicative modulation mediated by HCV 5′UTR 243 depends on NS2. Strong binding of the NS2 variants to HCV RNA correlates with reduced HCV replication whereas weak binding correlates with restoration of HCV replication efficiency, as determined by RNA-protein immunoprecipitation assay band intensity. The dominant haplotype 5′UTR 243-NS2-41-76-110-211-NS3-71-175 differs according to the HCV genotype: G-Ile-Ile-Ile-Gly-Ile-Met for genotype 1b and A-Leu-Val-Leu-Ser-Val-Leu for genotypes 1a, 2a and 2b. In conclusion, 5′UTR 243 co-varies with specific NS2/3 protein amino acid residues, which may have significant structural and functional consequences for HCV replication. This unreported mechanism involving HCV replication possibly can be exploited in the development of advanced anti-HCV medication.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)