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J Virol. 1995 Jul;69(7):4407-12.

Occurrence of antibodies reactive with more than one variant of the putative envelope glycoprotein (gp70) hypervariable region 1 in viremic hepatitis C virus-infected patients.

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Istituto di Ricerche di Biologia Molecolare P. Angeletti (IRBM), Rome, Italy.


The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a frequent cause of chronic liver disease. A mechanism proposed as being responsible for virus persistence is evasion of the host immune response through a high mutation rate in crucial regions of the viral genome. We have sequenced the hypervariable region 1 (HVR1) of the virus isolated from three serum samples, collected during 18 months of follow-up, from an asymptomatic HCV-infected patient. A synthetic peptide of 27 amino acids, corresponding to the HVR1 sequence found to be predominant in both the second and third samples, was used as the antigen for detection of antibodies by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). We observed reactivity against this HVR1 sequence in the first serum sample before the appearance of the viral isolate in the bloodstream; the reactivity increased in the second and third samples while the cognate viral sequence became predominant. Moreover, our results show that antibodies from all three samples recognize a region mapping at the carboxyl-terminal part of the HVR1 and are cross-reactive with the HVR1 sequence previously found in the same patient. The presence of anti-HVR1 antibodies was investigated in a further 142 HCV patients: 121 viremic and 21 nonviremic. Two synthetic peptides were used, the first corresponding to the sequence derived from the patient described above and the second one synthesized according to the sequence of the HCV BK strain. A high frequency of positive reactions against both HVR1 variants was detected in the samples from the viremic individuals. Finally, antibodies cross-reactive with both variants were shown to be present by competitive ELISA in 6 of 10 viremic patients. The potential negative implications of this observation for the host are discussed.

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