Redesigning the substrate specificity of the hepatitis C virus NS3 protease

Cristina Maria Failla, Elisabetta Pizzi, Raffaele De Francesco, Anna Tramontano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) non-structural protein 3 (NS3) encodes a trypsin-like serine protease that catalyzes the cleavages at the NS3/NS4A, NS4A/NS4B, NS4B/NS5A and NS5A/NS5B junctions in the viral polyprotein and that shows a preference for a cysteine as the P1 residue. Results: We describe here a partial model of the HCV NS3 protease which allowed us to predict the position of the secondary structure elements of the enzyme and of the residues involved in its specificity. By replacing these with the corresponding residues of Streptomyces griseus protease B, we obtained a protease that, similar to the bacterial protein and unlike the wild-type enzyme, is able to cleave a substrate containing a phenylalanine in the P1 position. Conclusions: These results confirm the reliability of our model and represent one of the few examples of redesign of a serine protease substrate specificity directed by molecular modelling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-42
Number of pages8
JournalFolding and Design
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • Hepatitis C virus
  • NS3 protease
  • Protease engineering
  • Structure prediction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine


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