Overdependence on the host—an Achilles' heel of HCV?



Hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA replication depends on viral protein association with intracellular membranes, but the influence of membrane composition on viral replication is unclear. We report that HCV RNA replication and assembly of the viral replication complex require geranylgeranylation of one or more host proteins. In cultured hepatoma cells, HCV RNA replication was disrupted by treatment with lovastatin, an inhibitor of 3-hydroxy-3-methyglutaryl CoA reductase, or with an inhibitor of protein geranylgeranyl transferase I, each of which induced the dissolution of the HCV replication complex. Viral replication was not affected by treatment of cells with an inhibitor of farnesyl transferase. When added to lovastatin-treated cells, geranylgeraniol, but not farnesol, restored replication complex assembly and viral replication. Inasmuch as the HCV genome does not encode a canonical geranylgeranylated protein, the data suggest the involvement of a geranylgeranylated host protein in HCV replication. Inhibition of its geranylgeranylation affords a therapeutic strategy for treatment of HCV infection.