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J Virol. 2001 Sep;75(18):8516-23.

Effect of alpha interferon on the hepatitis C virus replicon.

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Institute for Cancer Research, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19111, USA.


Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections can be cured only in a fraction of patients treated with alpha interferon (IFN-alpha) and ribavirin combination therapy. The mechanism of the IFN-alpha response against HCV is not understood, but evidence for a role for viral nonstructural protein 5A (NS5A) in IFN resistance has been provided. To elucidate the mechanism by which NS5A and possibly other viral proteins inhibit the cellular antiviral program, we have constructed a subgenomic replicon from a known infectious HCV clone and demonstrated that it has an approximately 1,000-fold-higher transduction efficiency than previously used subgenomes. We found that IFN-alpha reduced replication of HCV subgenomic replicons approximately 10-fold. The estimated half-life of viral RNA in the presence of the cytokine was about 12 h. HCV replication was sensitive to IFN-alpha independently of whether the replicon expressed an NS5A protein associated with sensitivity or resistance to the cytokine. Furthermore, our results indicated that HCV replicons can persist in Huh7 cells in the presence of high concentrations of IFN-alpha. Finally, under our conditions, selection for IFN-alpha-resistant variants did not occur.

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