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Arch Virol. 1995;140(10):1747-61.

Evaluation of complete genome sequences and sequences of individual gene products for the classification of hepatitis C viruses.

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Biomolecular Research Institute, Victoria, Australia.


Comparisons of genome and polyprotein sequences of hepatitis C virus (HCV) isolates world-wide has led to the identification of nine major genotypes and many subtypes. This classification is based on either complete genome/polyprotein sequences or sequence data from the 5' noncoding region, core, E1, NS3 or NS5B genes. The relative merit of different gene segments as taxonomic markers and the validity of the resulting assignments is not clear at this stage. To resolve the taxonomy of HCV genotypes and subtypes, we have compared the complete genome and polyprotein sequences of 19 HCV isolates available in the databases as well as sequences of individual genes and gene products of these isolates. Based on the correlation between sequence relationships and taxonomic assignments of other RNA viruses, we show that the nine major genotypes of HCV represent nine distinct virus species and their subtypes subspecies. Our sequence comparison of the 5' noncoding regions and the individual gene products suggests that E2, NS2, NS5B, E1, NS4A, NS4B and NS5A (in that order) are the most appropriate regions for the discrimination between species, subspecies and strains of HCV. The 5' noncoding, core and NS3 regions are less effective in distinguishing between species, subspecies and strains. Based on a comparison of the polymerase sequence identities of HCVs, pestiviruses and flaviviruses as well as the recent information on the size and morphology of HCV virions, we propose that HCVs, pestiviruses and flaviviruses should be classified into three separate families, named Hepciviridae, Pestiviridae and Flaviviridae, respectively rather than three genera of the Flaviviridae as currently classified. We also propose "Hepcivirus" as the genus name for HCVs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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