Comparative sequence analysis of different isolates of hepatitis G virus (HGV) has demonstrated significant intersubject genetic heterogeneity, but few data on intrasubject genetic evolution have been reported. To further investigate the genetic diversification of the HGV genome, 36 plasma samples from eleven patients chronically infected with HGV serially obtained 2-4 years apart were analysed. We determined the viral nucleotide sequence of the 5' non-coding (NC) and the NS3 regions by directly sequencing the RT-PCR amplified products obtained from the viral RNAs. Intrasubject sequence variation was found to be 1.3-2.4 x 10(-3) base substitutions per genome site per year within the 5' NC region and 1.3-9.4 x 10(-3) base substitutions per genome site per year within the NS3 region. Depending on the genomic region analysed (i.e. 5' NC or NS3 region), pairwise comparisons and phylogenetic reconstructions showed that intersubject genetic distances were 17.5- to 20.8-fold greater than intrasubject ones. Overall, the evolution rate of HGV in the regions analysed is not significantly different from that found in hepatitis C virus.


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