Interference of HCV replication by cell penetrable human monoclonal scFv specific to NS5B polymerase.

PMID 25517317


A new class of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-targeted therapeutics that is safe, broadly effective and can cope with virus mutations is needed. The HCV's NS5B is highly conserved and different from human protein, and thus it is an attractive target for anti-HCV therapeutics development. In this study, NS5B bound-phage clones selected from a human single chain variable antibody fragment (scFv) phage display library were used to transform appropriate E. coli bacteria. Two scFv inhibiting HCV polymerase activity were selected. The scFvs were linked to a cell penetrating peptide to make cell penetrable scFvs. The transbodies reduced the HCV RNA and infectious virus particles released into the culture medium and inside hepatic cells transfected with a heterologous HCV replicon. They also rescued the innate immune response of the transfected cells. Phage mimotope search and homology modeling/molecular docking revealed the NS5B subdomains and residues bound by the scFvs. The scFv mimotopes matched residues of the NS5B, which are important for nucleolin binding during HCV replication, as well as residues that interconnect the fingers and thumb domains for forming a polymerase active groove. Both scFvs docked on several residues at the thumb armadillo-like fold that could be the polymerase interactive sites of other viral/host proteins for the formation of the replication complex and replication initiation. In conclusion, human transbodies that inhibited HCV RdRp activity and HCV replication and restored the host innate immune response were produced. They are potentially future interferon-free anti-HCV candidates, particularly in combination with other cognates that are specific to NS5B epitopes and other HCV enzymes.