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Virol J. 2005 Dec 1;2:88.

A general method for nested RT-PCR amplification and sequencing the complete HCV genotype 1 open reading frame.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri 63104, USA.



Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a pathogenic hepatic flavivirus with a single stranded RNA genome. It has a high genetic variability and is classified into six major genotypes. Genotype 1a and 1b cause the majority of infections in the USA. Viral genomic sequence information is needed to correlate viral variation with pathology or response to therapy. However, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of the HCV genome must overcome low template concentration and high target sequence diversity. Amplification conditions must hence have both high sensitivity and specificity yet recognize a heterogeneous target population to permit general amplification with minimal bias. This places divergent demands of the amplification conditions that can be very difficult to reconcile.


RT and nested PCR conditions were optimized independently and systematically for amplifying the complete open reading frame (ORF) from HCV genotype 1a and 1b using several overlapping amplicons. For each amplicon, multiple pairs of nested PCR primers were optimized. Using these primers, the success rate (defined as the rate of production of sufficient DNA for sequencing with any one of the primer pairs for a given amplicon) for amplification of 72 genotype 1a and 1b patient plasma samples averaged over 95% for all amplicons. In addition, two sets of sequencing primers were optimized for each genotype 1a and 1b. Viral consensus sequences were determined by directly sequencing the amplicons. HCV ORFs from 72 patients have been sequenced using these primers. Sequencing errors were negligible because sequencing depth was over 4-fold and both strands were sequenced. Primer bias was controlled and monitored through careful primer design and control experiments.


Optimized RT-PCR and sequencing conditions are useful for rapid and reliable amplification and sequencing of HCV genotype 1a and 1b ORFs.

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