1887

Abstract

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an RNA virus which exists as swarms of closely related viruses known as quasispecies (QS). A number of studies have demonstrated associations between QS hypervariable region 1 (HVR1) characteristics (diversity and complexity) and treatment success. We investigated HCV QS change in chronic infection over intervals of 2–4 weeks in 23 chronically infected individuals to describe the natural history of virus evolution and establish whether HCV QS characteristics could be used to individualize treatment regimens at a molecular level. HVR1 QS diversity, complexity and divergence continue to change in an unpredictable fashion in chronic infection even where there is little phylogenetic change, which is likely to preclude the use of these features in treatment individualization. Our phylogenetic analysis identified no change in the HVR1 QS in 12 subjects, minor change in four subjects and we describe a time-ordered phylogeny for the first time over a period as short as 16 weeks in seven subjects. We identified the existence of multiple subpopulation infections using partitioned analysis of QS and illustrated how subpopulations were sequentially replaced in a number of subjects. We illustrated marked variation in the nucleotide substitution per codon position between patients with sequence change and those without change in the phylogenetic tree. Analysis of codon-specific selection pressures identified a number of codons under purifying selection, suggesting that these code for structurally conserved amino acids. We also identified sections of the HVR1 under positive selection with marked sequence heterogeneity, suggesting that these may be potential epitope-binding sites.

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2015-08-01
2019-10-13
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