Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a small (55-65 nm in size), enveloped, positive sense single strand RNA virus in the family Flaviviridae.
The structure of the hepatitis C virus consists of a core of genetic material (RNA), surrounded by an icosahedral protective shell of protein, and further encased in a lipid (fatty) envelope of cellular origin. Two viral envelope glycoproteins, E1 and E2, are embedded in the lipid envelope.
Hepatitis C virus has a positive sense RNA genome that consists of a single open reading frame of 9600 nucleoside bases. At the 5' and 3' ends of the RNA are the UTR regions, that are not translated into proteins but are important to translation and replication of the viral RNA. The 5' UTR has a ribosome binding site (IRES - Internal Ribosomal Entry Site) that starts the translation of a 3000 amino acid containing protein that is later cut by cellular and viral proteases into 10 active structural and non-structural smaller proteins.
NS4A is a non-structural viral protein that binds to a portion of HCV protease, inhibits HCV replication.
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