Seroconversion to hepatitis C virus alternate reading frame protein during acute infection.
ABSTRACT: The existence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) proteins encoded by alternate reading frames overlapping the core-encoding region has been suggested. Several mechanisms of production have been postulated, and the functions of these proteins in the HCV life cycle remain unknown. We analyzed cases of seroconversion to an alternate reading frame protein in a group of 17 patients infected by one of the two HCV genotype 1b strains during an outbreak in a hemodialysis unit. Three patients seroconverted, and antibodies were transiently detected in another patient. Three of these patients were infected by one of the two HCV strains, whereas the strain infecting the remaining patient could not be identified. Quasispecies sequence analysis of the core-coding region showed no differences in the core or +1 reading frame sequences that could explain alternate reading frame protein seroconversion in some but not all of the patients infected by one of the HCV strains, and no such difference was found between the two strains. Because differences in the structure of RNA elements could play a role in frameshift events, we conducted a predictive analysis of RNA folding. No difference was found between the patients who did and did not seroconvert to alternate reading frame protein.Our findings prove that alternate reading frame proteins can be produced during acute HCV infection. However, seroconversion does not occur in all patients for unknown reasons. Alternate reading frame protein could be generated by minority quasispecies variants or variants that occur transiently.
Project description:Many viruses have overlapping genes and/or regions in which a nucleic acid signal is embedded in a coding sequence. To search for dual-use regions in the hepatitis C virus (HCV), we developed a facile computer-based sequence analysis method to map dual-use regions in coding sequences. Eight diverse full-length HCV RNA and polyprotein sequences were aligned and analyzed. A cluster of unusually conserved synonymous codons was found in the core-encoding region, indicating a potential overlapping open reading frame (ORF). Four peptides (A1, A2, A3, and A4) representing this alternate reading frame protein (ARFP), two others from the HCV core protein, and one from bovine serum albumin (BSA) were conjugated to BSA and used in western blots to test sera for specific antibodies from 100 chronic HCV patients, 44 healthy controls, and 60 patients with non-HCV liver disease. At a 1:20,000 dilution, specific IgGs to three of the four ARFP peptides were detected in chronic HCV sera. Reactivity to either the A1 or A3 peptides (both ARFP derived) was significantly associated with chronic HCV infection, when compared to non-HCV liver disease serum samples (10/100 versus 1/60; p < 0.025). Antibodies to A4 were not detected in any serum sample. Our western blot assays confirmed the presence of specific antibodies to a new HCV antigen encoded, at least in part, in an alternate reading frame (ARF) overlapping the core-encoding region. Because this novel HCV protein stimulates specific immune responses, it has potential value in diagnostic tests and as a component of vaccines. This protein is predicted to be highly basic and may play a role in HCV replication, pathogenesis, and carcinogenesis.
Project description:In vitro studies have described the synthesis of an alternative reading frame form of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein that was named F protein or ARFP (alternative reading frame protein) and includes a domain coded by the +1 open reading frame of the RNA core coding region. The expression of this protein in HCV-infected patients remains controversial. We have analyzed peripheral blood from 47 chronically or previously HCV-infected patients for the presence of T lymphocytes and antibodies specific to the ARFP. Anti-ARFP antibodies were detected in 41.6% of the patients infected with various HCV genotypes. Using a specific ARFP 99-amino-acid polypeptide as well as four ARFP predicted class I-restricted 9-mer peptides, we show that 20% of the patients display specific lymphocytes capable of producing gamma interferon, interleukin-10, or both cytokines. Patients harboring three different viral genotypes (1a, 1b, and 3) carried T lymphocytes reactive to genotype 1b-derived peptides. In longitudinal analysis of patients receiving therapy, both core and ARFP-specific T-cell- and B-cell-mediated responses were documented. The magnitude and kinetics of the HCV antigen-specific responses differed and were not linked with viremia or therapy outcome. These observations provide strong and new arguments in favor of the synthesis, during natural HCV infection, of an ARFP derived from the core sequence. Moreover, the present data provide the first demonstration of the presence of T-cell-mediated immune responses directed to this novel HCV antigen.
Project description:Hepatitis C virus (HCV) actively evades host interferon (IFN) responses but the mechanisms of how it does so are not completely understood. In this study, we present evidence for an HCV factor that contributes to the suppression of retinoic-acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I)-mediated IFN induction. Expression of frameshift/alternate reading frame protein (F/ARFP) from HCV -2/+1 frame in Huh7 hepatoma cells suppressed type I IFN responses stimulated by HCV RNA pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP) and poly(IC). The suppression occurred independently of other HCV factors; and activation of interferon stimulated genes, TNF?, IFN-?1, and IFN-?2/3 was likewise suppressed by HCV F/ARFP. Point mutations in the full-length HCV sequence (JFH1 genotype 2a strain) were made to introduce premature termination codons in the -2/+1 reading frame coding for F/ARFP while preserving the original reading frame, which enhanced IFN? and IFN? induction by HCV. The potentiation of IFN response by the F/ARFP mutations was diminished in Huh7.5 cells, which already have a defective RIG-I, and by decreasing RIG-I expression in Huh7 cells. Furthermore, adding F/ARFP back via trans-complementation suppressed IFN induction in the F/ARFP mutant. The F/ARFP mutants, on the other hand, were not resistant to exogenous IFN?. Finally, HCV-infected human liver samples showed significant F/ARFP antibody reactivity, compared to HCV-uninfected control livers. Therefore, HCV F/ARFP likely cooperates with other viral factors to suppress type I and III IFN induction occurring through the RIG-I signaling pathway. This study identifies a novel mechanism of pattern recognition receptor modulation by HCV and suggests a biological function of the HCV alternate reading frame in the modulation of host innate immunity.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein is implicated in diverse aspects of HCV-induced pathogenesis. There is a paucity of information on core in acute hepatitis C infection. METHODS:We analyzed core gene sequences and protein functions from 13 patients acutely infected with HCV genotype 1. RESULTS:Although core isolates differed slightly between patients, core quasispecies were relatively homogeneous within each patient. In 2 of 4 patients studied temporally, core quasispecies did not change over time. Comparison with more than 2700 published core isolates indicated that amino acid changes from a prototype reference strain found in acute core isolates were present in chronically infected persons at low frequency (6.4%; range, 0%-32%). Core isolates associated with lipid droplets to similar degrees in Huh7 cells. Core diffusion in cells was not affected by nonconservative changes F130L and G161S in the lipid targeting domain of core. Core isolates inhibited interferon-stimulated response element- and nuclear factor kappaB-dependent transcription and tumor necrosis factor alpha-induced nuclear translocation of nuclear factor kappaB and were also secreted from Huh7 cells. CONCLUSIONS:The data suggest that upon transmission, core quasispecies undergo genetic homogenization associated with amino acid changes that are rarely found in chronic infection and that, despite genetic variation, acute core isolates retain similar functions in vitro.
Project description:Sexual partners of patients infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) often have detectable HCV-specific T-cell responses in the absence of seroconversion, suggesting unapparent, spontaneously resolving infection. To determine whether differences in the evolutionary potential of bottlenecked inoculum may explain the low rate of HCV persistence after sexual exposure, we have investigated changes in the entire HCV nonstructural 3 (NS3) gene over time in a chronic carrier and compared his viral quasispecies with that of the acute-phase isolate of his sexual partner, who developed acute resolving hepatitis C. The overall rate of accumulation of mutations, estimated by regression analysis of six consecutive consensus NS3 sequences over 8 years, was 1.5 x 10(-3) mutations per site per year, with small intersample fluctuations related to changes in environmental conditions. Comparison of quasispecies parameters in one isolate of the chronic carrier with those of the acute-phase isolate of the infected partner revealed a higher heterogeneity and lower proportion of nonsynonymous mutations in the former. All NS3 sequences from the acute-phase isolate clustered with a single sequence from the chronic isolate, despite complete HLA mismatch between the patients, suggesting bottlenecking during transmission. The low risk of viral persistence after sexual exposure to HCV may be related to the selection of a limited number of viral particles carrying a particular combination of mutations which may further limit the potential of a relatively homogeneous quasispecies to rapidly diversify and overcome the immune response of the exposed host.
Project description:Pegylated alpha interferon and ribavirin therapy for hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 infection fails for half of Caucasian American patients (CA) and more often for African Americans (AA). The reasons for these low response rates are unknown. HCV is highly genetically variable, but it is unknown how this variability affects response to therapy. To assess effects of viral diversity on response to therapy, the complete pretreatment genotype 1 HCV open reading frame was sequenced using samples from 94 participants in the Virahep-C study. Sequences from patients with >3.5 log declines in viral RNA levels by day 28 (marked responders) were more variable than those from patients with declines of <1.4 log (poor responders) in NS3 and NS5A for genotype 1a and in core and NS3 for genotype 1b. These correlations remained when all T-cell epitopes were excluded, indicating that these differences were not due to differential immune selection. When the sequences were compared by race of the patients, higher diversity in CA patients was found in E2 and NS2 but only for genotype 1b. Core, NS3, and NS5A can block the action of alpha interferon in vitro; hence, these genetic patterns are consistent with multiple amino acid variations independently impairing the function of HCV proteins that counteract interferon responses in humans, resulting in HCV strains with variable sensitivity to therapy. No evidence was found for novel HCV strains in the AA population, implying that AA patients may be infected with a higher proportion of the same resistant strains that are found in CA patients.
Project description:Variation of core amino acid (aa) 70 of hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been shown recently to be closely correlated with liver disease progression, suggesting that the core region might be present as a quasispecies during persistent infection and that this quasispecies nature might have an influence on the progression of disease. In our investigation, the subjects were 79 patients infected with HCV genotype 1b (25 with chronic hepatitis [CH], 29 with liver cirrhosis [LC], and 25 with hepatocellular carcinoma [HCC]). Deep sequencing of the HCV core region was carried out on their sera by using a Roche 454 GS Junior pyrosequencer. Based on a plasmid containing a cloned HCV sequence (pCV-J4L6S), the background error rate associated with pyrosequencing, including the PCR procedure, was calculated as 0.092 ± 0.005/base. Deep sequencing of the core region in the clinical samples showed a mixture of "mutant-type" Q/H and "wild-type" R at the core aa 70 position in most cases (71/79 [89.9%]), and the ratio of mutant residues to R in the mixture increased as liver disease advanced to LC and HCC. Meanwhile, phylogenetic analysis of the almost-complete core region revealed that the HCV isolates differed genetically depending on the mutation status at core aa 70. We conclude that the core aa 70 mixture ratio, determined by deep sequencing, reflected the status of liver disease, demonstrating a significant association between core aa 70 and disease progression in CH patients infected with HCV genotype 1b.
Project description:Perinatal infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) is characterized by a wide range of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels. The mechanisms responsible for this variability are unknown. We examined whether the evolution of the HCV quasispecies was associated with different ALT profiles in perinatally infected children. Sequences within HCV envelope 1 and 2 genes, inclusive of the hypervariable region 1, the viral load, and the nascent humoral immunity were analyzed in serial serum samples from 12 perinatally infected children prospectively followed for a median of 53 months. These patients were selected to represent two different ALT patterns during the first year of life: 6 had high levels (maximum values ranging from 4.2 to 30 times the normal upper limit), and 6 had normal or slightly elevated levels (< 2 times the normal upper limit). Two patterns of viral evolution were identified according to the ALT profiles. Biochemical evidence of hepatic injury was invariably associated with a mono- or oligoclonal viral population, whereas mild or no liver damage correlated with the early emergence of a heterogeneous viral quasispecies. Consistent with selective immune pressure, amino acid changes occurred almost exclusively within the hypervariable region 1 and were temporally associated with antibody seroconversion; at this time, the difference in genetic diversity between the two groups was highly significant (P = 0.002). The two patterns of viral evolution persisted over time and did not correlate with viral load or genotype. Our study demonstrates that, in perinatally infected children, the evolution of HCV quasispecies correlates with hepatic injury. The sequences reported in this paper have been deposited in the GenBank database (accession nos. DQ 504441-DQ 507112).
Project description:AIM:To investigate the dynamics of hepatitis C virus (HCV) variability through putative envelope genes during primary infection and the mechanism of viral genetic evolution in infected hosts. METHODS:Serial serum samples prospectively collected for 12 to 34 months from a cohort of acutely HCV-infected individuals were obtained, and a 1-kb fragment spanning E1 and the 5' half of E2, including Thirty-three cloned cDNAs representing each specimen were assessed by a method that combined a single-stranded conformational polymorphism (SSCP) and heteroduplex analysis (HDA) method to determine the number of clonotypes hypervariable region, was amplified by reverse transcriptase PCR and cloned. Nonsynonymous mutations per nonsynonymous site (dn), synonymous mutations per synonymous site (ds), dn/ds ratio and genetic distances within each sample were evaluated for intrahost evolutionary analysis. RESULTS:Quasispecies complexity and sequence diversity were lower in early samples and a further increase after seroconversion, although ds value in the envelope genes was higher than dn value during primary infection. The trend, pronounced in most of samples, toward lower ds values in the E1 than in the 5' portion of E2. Quasispecies complexity was higher and E2 dn/ds ratio was a trend toward higher value in later samples during persistent viremia. We also found individual features of HCV genetic evolution in different subjects who were infected with different HCV genotypes. CONCLUSION:Mutations of actively replicating virus arise stochastically with certain functional constaints. A complexity quasispecies exerted by a combination of either neutral evolution or selective forces shows clear differences in individuals, and associated with HCV persistence.
Project description:Previous work on hepatitis C virus (HCV) led to the discovery of a new form of virus particle associating virus and lipoprotein elements. These hybrid particles (LVP for lipo-viro-particles) are enriched in triglycerides and contain at least apolipoprotein B (apoB), HCV RNA and core protein. These findings suggest that LVP synthesis could occur in liver and intestine, the two main organs specialized in the production of apoB-containing lipoprotein. To identify the site of LVP production, the genetic diversity and phylogenetic relationship of HCV quasispecies from purified LVP, whole serum and liver biopsies from chronically infected patients were studied. HCV quasispecies from LVP and liver differed significantly, suggesting that LVP were not predominantly synthesized in the liver but might also originate in the intestine. The authors therefore searched for the presence of HCV in the small intestine. Paraffin-embedded intestinal biopsies from 10 chronically HCV-infected patients and from 12 HCV RNA-negative controls (10 anti-HCV antibody-negative and two anti-HCV antibody-positive patients) were tested for HCV protein expression. HCV NS3 and NS5A proteins were stained in small intestine epithelial cells in four of the 10 chronically infected patients, and not in controls. Cells expressing HCV proteins were apoB-producing enterocytes but not mucus-secreting cells. These data indicate that the small intestine can be infected by HCV, and identify this organ as a potential reservoir and replication site. This further emphasizes the interaction between lipoprotein metabolism and HCV, and offers new insights into hepatitis C infection and pathophysiology.