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1.  Stearoyl-CoA desaturase inhibition blocks formation of hepatitis C virus-induced specialized membranes 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:4549.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication is dependent on the formation of specialized membrane structures; however, the host factor requirements for the formation of these HCV complexes remain unclear. Herein, we demonstrate that inhibition of stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 (SCD-1) halts the biosynthesis of unsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid, and negatively modulates HCV replication. Unsaturated fatty acids play key roles in membrane curvature and fluidity. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that SCD-1 inhibition disrupts the integrity of membranous HCV replication complexes and renders HCV RNA susceptible to nuclease-mediated degradation. Our work establishes a novel function for unsaturated fatty acids in HCV replication.
PMCID: PMC4091094  PMID: 25008545
2.  Bidirectional Lipid Droplet Velocities Are Controlled by Differential Binding Strengths of HCV Core DII Protein 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78065.
Host cell lipid droplets (LD) are essential in the hepatitis C virus (HCV) life cycle and are targeted by the viral capsid core protein. Core-coated LDs accumulate in the perinuclear region and facilitate viral particle assembly, but it is unclear how mobility of these LDs is directed by core. Herein we used two-photon fluorescence, differential interference contrast imaging, and coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering microscopies, to reveal novel core-mediated changes to LD dynamics. Expression of core protein’s lipid binding domain II (DII-core) induced slower LD speeds, but did not affect directionality of movement on microtubules. Modulating the LD binding strength of DII-core further impacted LD mobility, revealing the temporal effects of LD-bound DII-core. These results for DII-core coated LDs support a model for core-mediated LD localization that involves core slowing down the rate of movement of LDs until localization at the perinuclear region is accomplished where LD movement ceases. The guided localization of LDs by HCV core protein not only is essential to the viral life cycle but also poses an interesting target for the development of antiviral strategies against HCV.
PMCID: PMC3815211  PMID: 24223760
3.  Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging of Alterations to Cellular Metabolism by Domain 2 of the Hepatitis C Virus Core Protein 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66738.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) co-opts hepatic lipid pathways to facilitate its pathogenesis. The virus alters cellular lipid biosynthesis and trafficking, and causes an accumulation of lipid droplets (LDs) that gives rise to hepatic steatosis. Little is known about how these changes are controlled at the molecular level, and how they are related to the underlying metabolic states of the infected cell. The HCV core protein has previously been shown to independently induce alterations in hepatic lipid homeostasis. Herein, we demonstrate, using coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy, that expression of domain 2 of the HCV core protein (D2) fused to GFP is sufficient to induce an accumulation of larger lipid droplets (LDs) in the perinuclear region. Additionally, we performed fluorescence lifetime imaging of endogenous reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotides [NAD(P)H], a key coenzyme in cellular metabolic processes, to monitor changes in the cofactor’s abundance and conformational state in D2-GFP transfected cells. When expressed in Huh-7 human hepatoma cells, we observed that the D2-GFP induced accumulation of LDs correlated with an increase in total NAD(P)H fluorescence and an increase in the ratio of free to bound NAD(P)H. This is consistent with an approximate 10 fold increase in cellular NAD(P)H levels. Furthermore, the lifetimes of bound and free NAD(P)H were both significantly reduced – indicating viral protein-induced alterations in the cofactors’ binding and microenvironment. Interestingly, the D2-expressing cells showed a more diffuse localization of NAD(P)H fluorescence signal, consistent with an accumulation of the co-factor outside the mitochondria. These observations suggest that HCV causes a shift of metabolic control away from the use of the coenzyme in mitochondrial electron transport and towards glycolysis, lipid biosynthesis, and building of new biomass. Overall, our findings demonstrate that HCV induced alterations in hepatic metabolism is tightly linked to alterations in NAD(P)H functional states.
PMCID: PMC3691201  PMID: 23826122
5.  Activity-based protein profiling of the hepatitis C virus replication in Huh-7 hepatoma cells using a non-directed active site probe 
Proteome Science  2010;8:5.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) poses a growing threat to global health as it often leads to serious liver diseases and is one of the primary causes for liver transplantation. Currently, no vaccines are available to prevent HCV infection and clinical treatments have limited success. Since HCV has a small proteome, it relies on many host cell proteins to complete its life cycle. In this study, we used a non-directed phenyl sulfonate ester probe (PS4≡) to selectively target a broad range of enzyme families that show differential activity during HCV replication in Huh-7 cells.
The PS4≡ probe successfully targeted 19 active proteins in nine distinct protein families, some that were predominantly labeled in situ compared to the in vitro labeled cell homogenate. Nine proteins revealed altered activity levels during HCV replication. Some candidates identified, such as heat shock 70 kDa protein 8 (or HSP70 cognate), have been shown to influence viral release and abundance of cellular lipid droplets. Other differentially active PS4≡ targets, such as electron transfer flavoprotein alpha, protein disulfide isomerase A5, and nuclear distribution gene C homolog, constitute novel proteins that potentially mediate HCV propagation.
These findings demonstrate the practicality and versatility of non-directed activity-based protein profiling (ABPP) to complement directed methods and accelerate the discovery of altered protein activities associated with pathological states such as HCV replication. Collectively, these results highlight the ability of in situ ABPP approaches to facilitate the identification of enzymes that are either predominantly or exclusively labeled in living cells. Several of these differentially active enzymes represent possible HCV-host interactions that could be targeted for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes.
PMCID: PMC2832231  PMID: 20181094
6.  Transcriptional profiling of the effects of 25-hydroxycholesterol on human hepatocyte metabolism and the antiviral state it conveys against the hepatitis C virus 
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a global health problem. A number of studies have implicated a direct role of cellular lipid metabolism in the HCV life cycle and inhibitors of the mevalonate pathway have been demonstrated to result in an antiviral state within the host cell. Transcriptome profiling was conducted on Huh-7 human hepatoma cells bearing subgenomic HCV replicons with and without treatment with 25-hydroxycholesterol (25-HC), an inhibitor of the mevalonate pathway that alters lipid metabolism, to assess metabolic determinants of pro- and antiviral states within the host cell. These data were compared with gene expression profiles from HCV-infected chimpanzees.
Transcriptome profiling of Huh-7 cells treated with 25-HC gave 47 downregulated genes, 16 of which are clearly related to the mevalonate pathway. Fewer genes were observed to be upregulated (22) in the presence of 25-HC and 5 genes were uniquely upregulated in the HCV replicon bearing cells. Comparison of these gene expression profiles with data collected during the initial rise in viremia in 4 previously characterized HCV-infected chimpanzees yielded 54 overlapping genes, 4 of which showed interesting differential regulation at the mRNA level in both systems. These genes are PROX1, INSIG-1, NK4, and UBD. The expression of these genes was perturbed with siRNAs and with overexpression vectors in HCV replicon cells, and the effect on HCV replication and translation was assessed. Both PROX1 and NK4 regulated HCV replication in conjunction with an antiviral state induced by 25-hydroxycholesterol.
Treatment of Huh-7 cells bearing HCV replicons with 25-HC leads to the downregulation of many key genes involved in the mevalonate pathway leading to an antiviral state within the host cell. Furthermore, dysregulation of a larger subset of genes not directly related to the mevalonate pathway occurs both in 25-HC-treated HCV replicon harbouring cells as well as during the initial rise in viremia in infected chimpanzees. Functional studies of 3 of these genes demonstrates that they do not directly act as antiviral gene products but that they indirectly contribute to the antiviral state in the host cell. These genes may also represent novel biomarkers for HCV infection, since they demonstrate an outcome-specific expression profile.
PMCID: PMC2651120  PMID: 19149867

Results 1-6 (6)