The complete nucleotide sequence of a hepatitis C virus derived from plasma of a human carrier in Japan was determined. The cDNA of the isolate (HC-J6) contained 9481 nucleotides and an additional T stretch of 30 to 108 nucleotides at the 3′ end, and had one large open reading frame coding for a polyprotein of 3033 amino acids. It differed by 31·8 to 32·1% in the nucleotide sequence and by 27·4 to 27·7% in the amino acid sequence from an American isolate and two Japanese isolates previously reported. Among these four isolates, the 5′ non-coding region of 329 to 341 nucleotides was well conserved (>93% identity), whereas the 3′ non-coding region of 39 to 45 nucleotides (T stretches not included) was more variable (>30% identity). An excellent degree of conservation of the 5′ non-coding region would reflect its pivotal role in replication, and primers deduced from this region could be applied for the sensitive and specific detection of viral RNA by polymerase chain reaction. Due to a high degree of similarity in the amino acid sequence of the putative core protein (>90%), antigen probes deduced from it would be suitable for the serological diagnosis of HCV infection. Low sequence similarity in the putative envelope protein (>53% identity), however, would have to be taken into account in considering the immunoprophylaxis of HCV infection.


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