The hepatitis C virus NS5A protein binds to members of the Src family of tyrosine kinases and regulates kinase activity.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) non-structural NS5A protein has been shown to associate with a variety of cellular signalling proteins. Of particular interest is the observation that a highly conserved C-terminal polyproline motif in NS5A was able to interact with the Src-homology 3 (SH3) domains of the adaptor protein Grb2. As it has previously been shown that specific polyproline motifs can interact with a range of SH3 domains, we investigated whether NS5A was capable of interacting with other SH3 domain-containing proteins. We show here that NS5A interacts with the SH3 domains of members of the Src family of tyrosine kinases: a combination of in vitro binding assays and co-immunoprecipitation experiments revealed an interaction between NS5A and Hck, Lck, Lyn and Fyn, but interestingly not Src itself. Mutational analysis confirmed that the polyproline motif responsible for binding to Grb2 also bound to the SH3 domains of Hck, Lck, Lyn and Fyn. Furthermore, a previously unidentified polyproline motif, adjacent to the first motif, was also able to mediate binding to the SH3 domain of Lyn. Using transient transfections and Huh-7 cells harbouring a persistently replicating subgenomic HCV replicon we demonstrate that NS5A bound to native Src-family kinases in vivo and differentially modulated kinase activity, inhibiting Hck, Lck and Lyn but activating Fyn. Lastly, we show that signalling pathways controlled by Src-family kinases are modulated in replicon cells. We conclude that the interactions between NS5A and Src-family kinases are physiologically relevant and may play a role in either virus replication or pathogenesis.