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Hepatitis C Virus Core Protein Activates p53 to Inhibit E6-associated Protein Expression via Promoter Hypermethylation

Vol.28 No.9, 2018.9, 1007-1015 (9 pages)
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Abstract
The E6-associated protein (E6AP) is known to induce the ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation of HCV core protein and thereby directly impair capsid assembly, resulting in a decline in HCV replication. To counteract this anti-viral host defense system, HCV core protein has evolved a strategy to inhibit E6AP expression via DNA methylation. In the present study, we further explored the mechanism by which HCV core protein inhibits E6AP expression. HCV core protein upregulated both the protein levels and enzyme activities of DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1), DNMT3a, and DNMT3b to inhibit E6AP expression via promoter hypermethylation in HepG2 cells but not in Hep3B cells, which do not express p53. Interestingly, p53 overexpression alone in Hep3B cells was sufficient to activate DNMTs in the absence of HCV core protein and thereby inhibit E6AP expression via promoter hypermethylation. In addition, upregulation of p53 was absolutely required for the HCV core protein to inhibit E6AP expression via promoter hypermethylation, as evidenced by both p53 knockdown and ectopic expression experiments. Accordingly, levels of the ubiquitinated forms of HCV core protein were lower in HepG2 cells than in Hep3B cells. Based on these observations, we conclude that HCV core protein evades ubiquitin-dependent proteasomal degradation in a p53-dependent manner.

E6AP (E6-associated protein)는 C형 간염바이러스(hepatitis C virus, HCV)의 코어 단백질 유비퀴틴화와 프로테오좀 분해를 유도하여 캡시드 조립을 저해함으로써 HCV 복제를 억제하는 것으로 알려져 있다. 반면에 HCV코어 단백질은 숙주의 항바이러스 방어계에 대항하고 자신의 유비퀴틴-의존적 프로테아좀 분해를 막기 위하여 DNA 메틸화를 통하여 E6AP 발현을 저해하는 전략을 진화과정에서 획득하였다. 본 연구에서는 HCV 코어 단백질이 E6AP 발현을 저해하는 기전을 밝혀내고자 하였다. HCV 코어 단백질은 HepG2 세포에서 DNA 메틸화 효소들인 DNMT1, 3a 및 3b의 단백질 수준과 효소 활성을 증가시켜 프로모터 과메틸화를 통하여 E6AP 발현을 저해하였지만 p53를 발현하지 않는 Hep3B 세포에서는 이러한 효과들이 관찰되지 않았다. 흥미롭게도 Hep3B 세포에 p53만 과발현시키면 HCV 코어 단백질이 없더라도 DNMT가 활성화되고 프로모터 과메틸화를 통하여 E6AP 발현이 저해되었다. 또한 p53 녹다운 및 과발현 실험을 통하여 p53 활성화가 HCV 코어 단백질의 효과에 필수적임을 알 수 있었다. 이로 인하여 Hep3B 보다 HepG2 세포에서 낮은 수준의 유비퀴틴화된 HCV 코어 단백질이 검출되었다. 따라서 HCV 코어 단백질은 p53-의존적으로 자신의 유비퀴틴-매개성 프로테아좀 분해를 저해한다.

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