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Background: Proteolytic processing is a common mechanism among plus strand RNA viruses and the replicases of all plus strand RNA viruses of animals thus far characterized undergo such processing. The replicase proteins of hepatitis E virus (HEV) are encoded by ORF1. A previous report published by our group [1] provided data that processing potentially occurred when ORF1 (Burma strain; genotype 1) was expressed using a vaccinia virus-based expression system.

Findings: To further test for processing and to rule out artifacts associated with the expression system, ORF1 was re-expressed using a plasmid-based expression vector with the result that the previous processing profile could not be confirmed. When ORF1 from an HEV infectious cDNA clone (US swine strain; genotype 3) was expressed using the plasmid-based system, the only species detected was the 185 kDa precursor of ORF1. A putative papain-like cysteine protease [2] had been predicted within ORF1 using the original HEV genomic sequence. However, analysis of subsequent ORF1 sequences from a large number of HEV isolates reveals that this protease motif is not conserved.

Conclusions: The expressed HEV ORF1 gene product does not undergo proteolytic processing, indicating that the replicase precursor of HEV is potentially unique in this regard.


This article was originally published in Virology Journal. It is posted here with the permission of the author.

Copyright © 2011 Suppiah et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.