Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has a positive-strand RNA genome that encodes a polyprotein, which is posttranslationally processed by cellular and viral proteinases into three structural and six non-structural (NS) proteins. The NS5A protein, expressed in mammalian cells, exists as two phosphorylated forms of 56 kDa and 58 kDa. In this study, we provide evidence for a stable association between NS5A and a protein kinase from rat-1 cells by affinity to immobilized glutathione-S-transferase (GST)-NS5A fusion protein. This protein kinase was associated through the N-terminus of NS5A and was not regulated by cell cycle. The GST-NS5A was also phosphorylated in vitro by the purified casein kinase II (CKII), a member of the CMCG kinase family. Since CKII and the NS5A-associated protein kinase have the same molecular size and property by In-gel kinase assay and an inhibitor treatment test, we conclude that HCV NS5A protein is phosphorylated by CKII. (C) 1999 Academic Press.