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Virology. 1996 Sep 1;223(1):255-61.

Genetic organization and diversity of the 3' noncoding region of the hepatitis C virus genome.

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Department of Biochemistry, Kanazawa Medical University, Ishikawa, Japan.


The 3' noncoding region (3' NCR) of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) genome contained in viral particles was analyzed by an RNA linker ligation followed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Sequence analysis of the amplified fragment from four strains, including different genotypes 1b, 2b, 3a, and 3b indicated that the 3' NCR is composed of between 200 and 235 nts. The sequence of the 3' NCR consists of a type-specific region (immediately following the termination codon), a poly(U) stretch, a C(U)n-repeat, and highly conserved region termed the core element. The poly(U) stretch and C(U)n-repeat regions varied in length and in sequence among different genotypes. Core elements having putative secondary structure consisted of 98 or 100 nts and were highly conserved in all genotypes. Most of the nt changes found in different genotypes did not affect the secondary structure of the core elements, suggesting that this region may play an important role in replication, stabilization of the HCV RNA, and/or packaging of the genome. Most of the HCV-1b strains carried two U residues at the 3' end of the core element, while the minor HCV-1b strains had no U residues, demonstrating that there are two variants in type 1b strains. Amplification of the core element using linker-primed cDNA was comparable with that using the 3' proximal core element-primed cDNA, indicating that the 3' end of HCV genome was terminated by an OH group.

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