Researchers pinpoint peptide that blocks hepatitis C virus entry

August 1, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) have identified a specific peptide that may block the entry of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) into the liver, representing a potential target for new drug development.

The results are available online now and will be published in the August 2012 print edition of Hepatology, the official journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease.

“Viral entry is a multi-step process, involving a number of host factors; therefore, these findings represent a promising target for new antiviral drugs,” said Tianyi Wang, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, GSPH, and the study’s lead author.

Previous research indicates that human apolipoprotein E (apoE), which occurs naturally in the body, forms complexes with HCV, the scientists said. They constructed peptides, dubbed hEP, containing the portions of apoE to which other proteins and lipids typically bind.

In lab tests, they found that hEP blocked the virus from binding to liver cells, preventing infection. That suggests apoE is involved with HCV’s initial entry into the cells, Dr. Wang said. It’s possible that hEP thwarts infection because it competes with HCV for a cell surface receptor.

In addition, researchers determined that the ability of hEP to block the virus appears to be dependent on the peptide’s length and sequence. Shorter versions could not stop infection, possibly because the shape of the proteins—and thus their binding ability—was altered.

“Our findings highlight the potential of developing peptides that mimic hEP as new viral inhibitors,” said Dr. Wang.

Worldwide, more than 170 million people are infected with the hepatitis C virus, which often is asymptomatic and can cause severe liver disease and liver cancer. There is no cure for HCV and no vaccine. Existing treatments are effective in only 40 percent to 80 percent of patients and can cause severe side effects.

Despite the recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of two new antiviral drugs designed to treat chronic HCV infection, patients may rapidly develop resistance. Much like current HIV therapies, successful treatment of HCV may involve multiple inhibitors of different targets, researchers said.

“New antiviral drugs are urgently needed to treat HCV infection independently, or in combination with current therapies,” said Dr. Wang.

Collaborators on the studies include Shufeng Liu, Ph.D., and Kevin D. McCormick, M.S., Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, GSPH, University of Pittsburgh; Wentao Zhao, Ph.D., and Daping Fan, Ph.D., Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of South Carolina; and Ting Zhao, Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Explore further: Green tea flavonoid may prevent reinfection with hepatitis C virus following liver transplantation

Related Stories

Green tea flavonoid may prevent reinfection with hepatitis C virus following liver transplantation

December 1, 2011
German researchers have determined that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG)—a flavonoid found in green tea—inhibits the hepatitis C virus (HCV) from entering liver cells. Study findings available in the December issue ...

University launches iphone app for hepatitis treatment

November 22, 2011
The University of Liverpool has launched an iphone app, HEP i-chart, that provides Hepatitis C (HCV) patients with quick and easy access to the latest information about drug interactions.

Researchers identify potential new therapy approach for hepatitis C

January 16, 2012
Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found a new way to block infection from the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the liver that could lead to new therapies for those affected by this and other infectious diseases.

New vaccine for hepatitis C virus

July 28, 2011
Murdoch University researchers have begun a study to develop a new and innovative vaccine for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Entry point for hepatitis C infection identified

January 24, 2012
A molecule embedded in the membrane of human liver cells that aids in cholesterol absorption also allows the entry of hepatitis C virus, the first step in hepatitis C infection, according to research at the University of ...

Recommended for you

Pneumonia vaccine under development provides 'most comprehensive coverage' to date, alleviates antimicrobial concerns

October 20, 2017
In 2004, pneumonia killed more than 2 million children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. By 2015, the number was less than 1 million.

Newly discovered viral marker could help predict flu severity in infected patients

October 20, 2017
Flu viruses contain defective genetic material that may activate the immune system in infected patients, and new research published in PLOS Pathogens suggests that lower levels of these molecules could increase flu severity.

H7N9 influenza is both lethal and transmissible in animal model for flu

October 19, 2017
In 2013, an influenza virus that had never before been detected began circulating among poultry in China. It caused several waves of human infection and in late 2016, the number of people to become sick from the H7N9 virus ...

Flu simulations suggest pandemics more likely in spring, early summer

October 19, 2017
New statistical simulations suggest that Northern Hemisphere flu pandemics are most likely to emerge in late spring or early summer at the tail end of the normal flu season, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational ...

New insights into herpes virus could inform vaccine development

October 18, 2017
A team of scientists has discovered new insights into the mechanisms of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, as well as two antibodies that block the virus' entry into cells. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National ...

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.