A novel high throughput screening assay for HCV NS3 serine protease inhibitors

Yevgeny Berdichevsky, Romy Zemel, Larisa Bachmatov, Alex Abramovich, Ruth Koren, Peramachi Sathiyamoorthy, Avi Golan-Goldhirsh, Ran Tur-Kaspa, Itai Benhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major worldwide health problem, causing chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and primary liver cancer (Hepatocellular carcinoma). HCV encodes a precursor polyprotein that is enzymatically cleaved to release the individual viral proteins. The viral non-structural proteins are cleaved by the HCV NS3 serine protease. NS3 is regarded currently as a potential target for anti-viral drugs thus specific inhibitors of its enzymatic activity should be of importance. A prime requisite for detailed biochemical studies of the protease and its potential inhibitors is the availability of a rapid reliable in vitro assay of enzyme activity. A novel assay for measurement of HCV NS3 serine protease activity was developed for screening of HCV NS3 serine protease potential inhibitors. Recombinant NS3 serine protease was isolated and purified, and a fluorometric assay for NS3 proteolytic activity was developed. As an NS3 substrate we engineered a recombinant fusion protein where a green fluorescent protein is linked to a cellulose-binding domain via the NS5A/B site that is cleavable by NS3. Cleavage of this substrate by NS3 results in emission of fluorescent light that is easily detected and quantitated by fluorometry. Using our system we identified NS3 serine protease inhibitors from extracts obtained from natural Indian Siddha medicinal plants. Our unique fluorometric assay is very sensitive and has a high throughput capacity making it suitable for screening of potential NS3 serine protease inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-255
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Virological Methods
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2003


  • Fluorogenic substrate
  • Fluorometric assay
  • HCV NS3 serine protease
  • High throughput screening assay
  • Recombinant NS4A-NS3


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