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J Virol Methods. 1999 Dec;83(1-2):181-7.

Rapid detection of lamivudine-resistant hepatitis B virus polymerase gene variants.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Hospital Universitario Valle Hebrón, Paseo Valle Hebroń s/n, Barcelona, Spain.


The amino acid substitution from methionine to valine or isoleucine at the YMDD (tyrosine, methionine, aspartate, aspartate) motif of the HBV polymerase gene is the main mutation responsible for resistance to lamivudine treatment. Detection of emerging HBV variants by direct sequencing of the HBV genome is excessively time-consuming for studying large numbers of clinical samples. The aim of the study was to analyse the emergence of lamivudine-resistant HBV genotypes by means of restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) of the PCR product generated from a fragment of domain C of the polymerase gene, in clinical samples from patients receiving treatment. The results with this method were compared with those obtained with a direct sequencing technique. In total, 139 serum samples were studied from 37 patients with chronic hepatitis B, obtained at pre-treatment and at 9, 12, 18 and 24 months of treatment. Variants were detected by cleavage of the products of the three PCRs with the following enzymes: FokI (identifies the normal variant, YMDD, and the mutant variant YVDD), SspI (identifies the mutant variant, YIDD) and Alw44I (identifies the variant, YVDD). The digested fragments were separated by electrophoresis in 3% agarose gel. Of the 139 serum samples analysed, the wild-type YMDD sequence was detected in 106 (76%), the YVDD variant in 20 (15%) and the YIDD variant in 13 (9%) cases. The non-mutated variant, YMDD, was detected in all the pre-treatment samples. After 9 months of treatment the mutant variant was detected in four of 37 serum samples analysed (11%) (two YVDD and two YIDD). At 12 months, 12 of the 37 serum samples (32%) showed mutations in the YMDD sequence (seven YVDD and five YIDD). Among the 16 serum samples obtained at 18 months, nine had the YMDD variant (56%) (seven YVDD and two YIDD). At 24 months, variants in the YMDD sequence were detected in eight of the 12 patients treated (66%) (four YVDD and four YIDD). HBV genotypes were confirmed by direct sequencing, with consistent results. In 45% of cases, the emergence of HBV variants was not associated with ALT breakthrough. The PCR-RFLP assay used in this study, in perfect concordance with direct sequencing, is an accurate method for genotyping lamivudine-resistant HBV variants. Since it is a rapid low-cost technique, PCR- RFLP is suitable for large-scale screening of these polymorphisms in clinical samples.

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