Identification of a Potent and Broad-Spectrum Hepatitis C Virus Fusion Inhibitory Peptide from the E2 Stem Domain

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Chi, Xiaojing ; Niu, Yuqiang ; Cheng, Min ; Liu, Xiuying ; Feng, Yetong ; Zheng, Fuxiang ; Fan, Jingjing ; Li, Xiang ; Jin, Qi ; Zhong, Jin ; Li, Yi-Ping ; Yang, Wei (2016)
  • Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
  • Journal: Scientific Reports, volume 6 (issn: 2045-2322, eissn: 2045-2322)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC4848495, doi: 10.1038/srep25224
  • Subject: Article

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) envelope proteins E1 and E2 play an essential role in virus entry. However, the fusion mechanisms of HCV remain largely unclear, hampering the development of efficient fusion inhibitors. Here, we developed two cell-based membrane fusion models that allow for screening a peptide library covering the full-length E1 and E2 amino acid sequences. A peptide from the E2 stem domain, named E27, was found to possess the ability to block E1E2-mediated cell-cell fusion and inhibit cell entry of HCV pseudoparticles and infection of cell culture-derived HCV at nanomolar concentrations. E27 demonstrated broad-spectrum inhibition of the major genotypes 1 to 6. A time-of-addition experiment revealed that E27 predominantly functions in the late steps during HCV entry, without influencing the expression and localization of HCV co-receptors. Moreover, we demonstrated that E27 interfered with hetero-dimerization of ectopically expressed E1E2 in cells, and mutational analysis suggested that E27 might target a conserved region in E1. Taken together, our findings provide a novel candidate as well as a strategy for developing potent and broad-spectrum HCV fusion inhibitors, which may complement the current direct-acting antiviral medications for chronic hepatitis C, and shed light on the mechanism of HCV membrane fusion.
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