Oncogenic virus proteins often target to tumor suppressor p53 during virus life cycle. In the case of hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein, it has been shown to affect p53-dependent transcription. Here, we further characterized the in vitro and in vivo interactions between HCV core protein and p53 and showed that these two proteins colocalized in subnuclear granular structures and the perinuclear area. By use of a reporter assay, we observed that while low level of HCV core protein enhanced the transactivational activity of p53, high level of HCV core protein inhibited this activity. In both cases, however, HCV core protein increased the p53 DNA-binding affinity in gel retardation analyses, likely due to the hyperacetylation of p53 Lys373 and Lys 382 residues. Additionally, HCV core protein, depending on its expression level, had differential effects on the Ser15 phosphorylation of p53. Moreover, HCV core protein could rescue p53-mediated suppressive effects on both RNA polymerase I and III transcriptions. Collectively, our results indicate that HCV core protein targets to p53 pathway via at least three means: physical interaction, modulation of p53 gene regulatory activity and post-translational modification. This feature of HCV core protein, may potentially contribute to the HCV-associated pathogenesis.
- Core protein
- Post-translational modification