1887

Abstract

Hypervariable region 1 (HVR1) of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) genome was directly sequenced from 12 chronically infected patients who had not responded to interferon (IFN) treatment. Due to the quasispecies nature of HCV circulating genomes, serum samples from four patients showing different evolutionary characteristics were further analysed. Serial samples from each patient were taken before, soon after and 14–23 months after a 6 month IFN treatment. HVR1 from each sample was amplified, cloned and the clones sequenced. For each patient, a phylogenetic analysis of the clones was performed and quasispecies complexity and genetic distances were calculated. The amino acid sequences and predicted antigenic profiles were analysed. The pre-treatment samples of the different patients presented dissimilar genetic quasispecies composition. For three of the patients, we showed that, regardless of the complexity or diversity of the viral populations before treatment, they evolved towards genetic diversification following selective pressure. Once the environment became stable, the entire population tended towards homogeneity. The fourth patient represented a case where different components of the quasispecies coexisted for long periods without replacement. We propose herein that the evolution of HVR1 of E2 is more likely to be directed by selection of clearly different subpopulations (modification of quasispecies equilibrium) than by a continuous mechanism related to the successive accumulation of point mutations. The prevalence of a quasispecies shift mechanism was revealed by the cloning analysis during the follow-up period of the evolutionary process.

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2004-01-01
2019-10-18
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