Hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication is dependent on a liver-specific microRNA (miRNA), miR-122. A recent clinical trial reported that transient inhibition of miR-122 reduced viral titres in HCV-infected patients. Here we set out to better understand how miR-122 inhibition influences HCV replication over time. Unexpectedly, we observed the emergence of an HCV variant that is resistant to miR-122 knockdown. Next-generation sequencing revealed that this was due to a single nucleotide change at position 28 (G28A) of the HCV genome, which falls between the two miR-122 seed-binding sites. Naturally occurring HCV isolates encoding G28A are similarly resistant to miR-122 inhibition, indicating that subtle differences in viral sequence, even outside the seed-binding site, greatly influence HCV's miR-122 concentration requirement. In addition, we found that HCV itself reduces miR-122's activity in the cell, possibly through binding and sequestering miR-122. Our study provides insight into the interaction between miR-122 and HCV, including viral adaptation to reduced miR-122 bioavailability, and has implications for the development of anti-miR-122-based HCV drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5408
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - Feb 2015


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