Viral determinants of miR-122-independent hepatitis C virus replication

Sharon E. Hopcraft, Kristopher D. Azarm, Benjamin Israelow, Nicolas Lévêque, Megan C. Schwarz, Tien Huei Hsu, Matthew T. Chambers, Marion Sourisseau, Bert L. Semler, Matthew J. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication requires binding of the liver-specific microRNA (miRNA) miR-122 to two sites in the HCV 5' untranslated region (UTR). Although we and others have shown that viral genetics impact the amount of active miR-122 required for replication, it is unclear if HCV can replicate in the complete absence of this miRNA. To probe the absolute requirements for miR-122 and the genetic basis for those requirements, we used clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) technology to knock out miR-122 in Huh-7.5 cells and reconstituted these knockout (KO) cells with either wild-type miR-122 or a mutated version of this miRNA. We then characterized the replication of the wild-type virus, as well as a mutated HCV bearing 5' UTR substitutions to restore binding to the mutated miR-122, in miR-122 KO Huh-7.5 cells expressing no, wild-type, or mutated miR-122. We found that while replication was most efficient when wild-type or mutated HCV was provided with the matched miR-122, inefficient replication could be observed in cells expressing the mismatched miR-122 or no miR-122. We then selected viruses capable of replicating in cells expressing noncognate miR-122 RNAs. Unexpectedly, these viruses contained multiple mutations throughout their first 42 nucleotides that would not be predicted to enhance binding of the provided miR- 122. These mutations increased HCV RNA replication in cells expressing either the mismatched miR-122 or no miR-122. These data provide new evidence that HCV replication can occur independently of miR-122 and provide unexpected insights into how HCV genetics influence miR-122 requirements.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00009-15
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Hepatitis C virus
  • MiR-122
  • MicroRNA


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