Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 20001747
Mol. Membr. Biol. 2010 Jan;27(1):45-62
The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS4B protein, a multispanning endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane protein, generates intracellular rearrangements of ER-derived membranes, essential for HCV replication. In this study, we characterized NS4B elements involved in the process of targeting, association and retention in the ER membrane. We investigated the localization and membrane association of a number of C- or N-terminal NS4B deletions expressed as GFP chimeras by biochemical and fluorescence microscopy techniques. A second set of GFP-NS4B chimeras containing the plasma membrane ecto-ATPase CD39 at the C-terminus of each NS4B deletion mutant was used to further examine the role of N-terminal NS4B sequences in ER retention. Several structural elements, besides the first two transmembrane domains (TMs), within the NS4B N-terminal half (residues 1-130) were found to mediate association of the NS4B-GFP chimeras with ER membranes. Both TM1 and TM2 are required for ER anchoring and retention but are not sufficient for ER retention. Sequences upstream of TM1 are also required. These include two putative amphipathic alpha-helices and a Leucine Rich Repeat-like motif, a sequence highly conserved in all HCV genotypes. The N-terminal 55peptidic sequence, containing the 1st amphipathic helix, mediates association of the 55N-GFP chimera with cellular membranes including the ER, but is dispensable for ER targeting of the entire NS4B molecule. Importantly, the C-terminal 70peptidic sequence can associate with membranes positive for ER markers in the absence of any predicted TMs. In conclusion, HCV NS4B targeting and retention in the ER results from the concerted action of several NS4B structural elements.