We report the cloning and sequencing of the putative structural region of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) genome (2229 nucleotides) from an isolate derived from a British case of chronic sporadic non-A, non-B hepatitis. The overall sequence shows a higher similarity with one type of HCV, HCV1 (92%), than with HCV2 (80%), is very highly conserved at the 5′ end (99%) preceding the long open reading frame, is well conserved also in the putative core region (90 to 97%), but shows marked variation in the putative envelope region, particularly in the envelope 2/non-structural 1 region (70%). The putative core gene was cloned in pJ3Θ under the early simian virus 40 promoter and expressed in human hepatoma cells. A predominantly cytoplasmic 22K polypeptide was expressed which was antigenically reactive with serum from chronically infected HCV patients.


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