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Effects of hepatitis C virus on suppressor of cytokine signaling mRNA levels: Comparison between different genotypes and core protein sequence analysis



Glucose metabolism disturbances, including insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, are frequent and important cofactors of hepatitis C. Increasing epidemiological and experimental data suggest that all major genotypes of hepatitis C virus (HCV), albeit to a different extent, cause insulin resistance. The HCV core protein has been shown to be sufficient to impair insulin signaling in vitro through several post-receptorial mechanisms, mostly via the activation of suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) family members and the consequent decrease of insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1). The levels of IRS-1 and SOCS were investigated upon expression of the core protein of HCV genotypes 1–4. Furthermore, the core protein sequences were analyzed to identify the amino acid residues responsible for IRS-1 decrease, with particular regard to SOCS mRNA deregulation. The results suggest that the activation of SOCS family members is a general mechanism associated with the common HCV genotypes. A rare genotype 1b variant, however, failed to activate any of the SOCS tested: this allowed to analyze in detail the distinct amino acid sequences responsible for SOCS deregulation. By combining approaches using intergenotypic chimeras and site-directed mutagenesis, genetic evidence was provided in favor of a role of amino acids 49 and 131 of the HCV core-encoding sequence in mediating SOCS transactivation. J. Med. Virol. 83:1005–1015, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.