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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e22808. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022808. Epub 2011 Aug 4.

Generation of a cell culture-adapted hepatitis C virus with longer half life at physiological temperature.

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Molecular Virology Laboratory, POSTECH Biotech Center, Department of Life Science, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Pohang, Kyungbuk, Republic of Korea.



We previously reported infectious HCV clones that contain the convenient reporters, green fluorescent protein (GFP) and Renilla luciferase (Rluc), in the NS5a-coding sequence. Although these viruses were useful in monitoring viral proliferation and screening of anti-HCV drugs, the infectivity and yield of the viruses were low.


In order to obtain a highly efficient HCV cultivation system, we transfected Huh7.5.1 cells [1] with JFH 5a-GFP RNA and then cultivated cells for 20 days. We found a highly infectious HCV clone containing two cell culture-adapted mutations. Two cell culture-adapted mutations which were responsible for the increased viral infectivity were located in E2 and p7 protein coding regions. The viral titer of the variant was ∼100-fold higher than that of the parental virus. The mutation in the E2 protein increased the viability of virus at 37°C by acquiring prolonged interaction capability with a HCV receptor CD81. The wild-type and p7-mutated virus had a half-life of ∼2.5 to 3 hours at 37°C. In contrast, the half-life of viruses, which contained E2 mutation singly and combination with the p7 mutation, was 5 to 6 hours at 37°C. The mutation in the p7 protein, either singly or in combination with the E2 mutation, enhanced infectious virus production about 10-50-fold by facilitating an early step of virion production.


The mutation in the E2 protein generated by the culture system increases virion viability at 37°C. The adaptive mutation in the p7 protein facilitates an earlier stage of virus production, such as virus assembly and/or morphogenesis. These reporter-containing HCV viruses harboring adaptive mutations are useful in investigations of the viral life cycle and for developing anti-viral agents against HCV.

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