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J Viral Hepat. 1996 Jan;3(1):11-7.

Visualization of hepatitis C virions and putative defective interfering particles isolated from low-density lipoproteins.

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Laboratory of Virology and Parasitology, Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute of the New York Blood Center, NY 10021, USA.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) in highly infectious sera has been shown to be predominantly associated with low-density lipoproteins. To determine whether the association is specific to low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), we fractionated HCV-containing plasma by a column chromatographic procedure known to separate these classes. Hepatitis C virus RNA detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was associated primarily with the very low-density (VLDL) fraction. However, it could not be ruled out that virus-associated LDL may have eluted with this fraction. Hepatitis C virus virions isolated from sera having sufficient titre for visualization by electron microscopy are generally coated with antiviral antibodies, therefore we utilized the lipid association to isolate antibody-free virions. Very low-density lipoproteins were isolated by ultracentrifugal flotation and then treated with deoxycholate to release the virions. These were then isolated in a highly purified form by centrifugation in a sucrose gradient. The 1.10-1.11 g ml-1 region of the gradients contained 60-70 nm particles. Particles with similar surface structure but having a diameter of only 30-40 nm constituted about 30% of the total. The latter may represent defective interfering particles. The identity of both small and large particles with HCV virions and associated particles was confirmed by their trapping on grids by an anti-HCV E2 monoclonal antibody, and by their aggregation by rabbit antiserum to an amino-terminal peptide of E1. Thus, both E1 and E2 epitopes are displayed on the surface of intact HCV virions.

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