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World J Gastroenterol. 2005 May 21;11(19):2874-84.

Multigene tracking of quasispecies in viral persistence and clearance of hepatitis C virus.

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  • 1Department of Infectious Diseases, Southwest Hospital, Third Military Medical University, 30 Gaotanyan Zhengjie, Shapingba District, Chongqing 400038, China.



To investigate the evaluation of hepatitis C virus (HCV) quasispecies in the envelope region and its relationship with the outcome of acute hepatitis C.


HCV quasispecies were characterized in specimens collected every 2-6 mo from a cohort of acutely HCV-infected subjects. We evaluated two individuals who spontaneously cleared viremia and three individuals with persistent viremia by cloning 33 1-kb amplicons that spanned E1 and the 5' half of E2, including hypervariable region 1 (HVR1). To assess the quasispecies complexity and to detect variants for sequencing, 33 cloned cDNAs representing each specimen were assessed by a combined method of analysis of a single-stranded conformational polymorphism and heteroduplex analysis. The rates of both synonymous and nonsynonymous substitutions for the E1, HVR1 and E2 regions outside HVR1 were analyzed.


Serum samples collected from chronic phase of infection had higher quasispecies complexity than those collected from acute phase of infection in all individuals examined. The genetic diversity (genetic distance) within HVR1 was consistently higher than that in the complete E1 (0.0322+/-0.0068 vs -0.0020+/-0.0014, P<0.05) and E2 regions outside HVR1 (0.0322+/-0.0068 vs 0.0017+/-0.0011, P<0.05) in individuals with persistent viremia, but did not change markedly over time in those with clearance of viremia. For individuals with persistent viremia, the rate of nonsynonymous substitutions within the HVR1 region (2.76X10(-3)+/-1.51X10(-3)) predominated and gradually increased, as compared with that in the E1 and E2 regions outside HVR1 (0.23X10(-3)+/-0.15X10(-3), 0.50X10(-3)+/-0.10X10(-3)). By contrast, the rates of both nonsynonymous and synonymous substitutions for the E1 and E2 regions including HVR1 were consistently lower in individuals with clearance of viremia.


HCV persistence is associated with a complexity quasispecies and positive selection of HVR1 by the host immune system.

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