FUNCTIONAL CHARACTERIZATION OF THE INTERACTION OF HEPATITIS E VIRUS ORF3 PRODUCT WITH THE CYTOSKELETON
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Hepatitis E virus (HEV) causes several outbreaks of hepatitis in humans. Many aspects of HEV pathogenesis are not well understood. The HEV ORF3 product (henceforth known as vp13) is a multifunctional protein essential for infection of animals. To better understand the vp13 functions, this study was performed. We observed that vp13 protein was associated with the microtubules (MT) in transfected cells. Mutational studies revealed that both hydrophobic domains at the N-terminal region of vp13 are required for the vp13-MT interaction. Our studies also showed that HEV vp13 protein increased the stability of the MT, activated the apoptotic pathway, and, increased the levels of tumor suppressor gene p53 and its downstream effector p21Cip/WAF1 in the transfected cells. However, no noticeable effect on cell survival was observed. These results indicated that HEV vp13 protein may act as a viral regulatory protein.