Hepatitis C Virus RNA-dependent RNA Polymerase (NS5B) as a Mediator of the Antiviral Activity of Ribavirin

David Maag, Christian Castro, Zhi Hong, Craig E. Cameron

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256 Scopus citations


Ribavirin is administered in combination with interferon-α for treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Recently, we demonstrated that the antiviral activity of ribavirin can result from the ability of a viral RNA polymerase to utilize ribavirin triphosphate and to incorporate this nucleotide with reduced specificity, thereby mutagenizing the genome and decreasing the yield of infectious virus (Crotty, S., Maag, D., Arnold, J. J., Zhong, W., Lau, J. Y., Hong, Z., Andino, R., and Cameron, C. E. (2000) Nat. Med. 6, 1375-1379). In this study, we performed a quantitative analysis of a novel HCV RNA polymerase derivative that is capable of utilizing stably annealed primer-template substrates and exploited this derivative to evaluate whether lethal mutagenesis of the HCV genome is a possible mechanism for the anti-HCV activity of ribavirin. These studies demonstrate HCV RNA polymerase-catalyzed incorporation of ribavirin opposite cytidine and uridine. In addition, we demonstrate that templates containing ribavirin support CMP and UMP incorporation with equivalent efficiency. Surprisingly, templates containing ribavirin can also cause a significant block to RNA elongation. Together, these data suggest that ribavirin can exert a direct effect on HCV replication, which is mediated by the HCV RNA polymerase. We discuss the implications of this work on the development of nucleoside analogs for treatment of HCV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46094-46098
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 7 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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