The hepatitis C virus (HCV) non-structural protein 3 (NS3) is essential for HCV maturation. The NS3/4A protease is a target for several HCV treatments and is a well-known target for HCV drug discovery. The protein is membrane associated and thus probably interacts with other membrane proteins. However, the vast majority of known NS3 host partners are soluble proteins rather than membrane proteins, most likely due to lack of appropriate platforms for their discovery. Utilization of an integrated microfluidics platform enables analysis of membrane proteins in their native form. We screened over 2800 membrane proteins for interaction with NS3 and 90 previously unknown interactions were identified. Of these, several proteins were selected for validation by co-immunoprecipitation and for NS3 proteolytic activity. Bearing in mind the considerable number of interactions formed, together with the popularity of NS3/4A protease as a drug target, it was striking to note its lack of proteolytic activity. Only a single protein, Neuregulin1, was observed to be cleaved, adding to the 3 known NS3/4A cleavage targets. Neuregulin1 participates in neural proliferation. Recent studies have shown its involvement in HCV infection and hepatocellular carcinoma. We showed that NS3/4A triggers an increase in neuregulin1 mRNA levels in HCV infected cells. Despite this increase, its protein concentration is decreased due to proteolytic cleavage. Additionally, its EGF-like domain levels were increased, possibly explaining the ErbB2 and EGFR upregulation in HCV infected cells. The newly discovered protein interactions may provide insights into HCV infection mechanisms and potentially provide new therapeutic targets against HCV.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank Dr. Mushit Lindzen and Prof. Yossi Yarden for their valuable advice, and for providing the NRG1 antibody. The authors thank Dr. Shirit Einav for her expert advice on HCV. The authors also thank the Israel Science Foundation (ISF grant no. 715/11 ) and the European Research Council (ERC grant no. 3309600 ) for their support.
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.