Full-Length Characterization of Hepatitis C Virus Subtype 3a Reveals Novel Hypervariable Regions under Positive Selection during Acute Infection

Humphreys I, Fleming V, Fabris P, Parker J, Schulenberg B, Brown A, Demetriou C, Gaudieri S, Pfafferott K, Lucas M, Collier J, Huang KH, Pybus OG, Klenerman P, Barnes E.

J Virol. 2009 Nov;83(22):11456-66. Epub 2009 Sep 9.

Hepatitis C virus subtype 3a is a highly prevalent and globally distributed strain that is often associated with infection via injection drug use. This subtype exhibits particular phenotypic characteristics. In spite of this, detailed genetic analysis of this subtype has rarely been performed. We performed full-length viral sequence analysis in 18 patients with chronic HCV subtype 3a infection and assessed genomic viral variability in comparison to other HCV subtypes. Two novel regions of intragenotypic hypervariability within the envelope protein E2, of HCV genotype 3a, were identified. We named these regions HVR495 and HVR575. They consisted of flanking conserved hydrophobic amino acids and central variable residues. A 5-amino-acid insertion found only in genotype 3a and a putative glycosylation site is contained within HVR575. Evolutionary analysis of E2 showed that positively selected sites within genotype 3a infection were largely restricted to HVR1, HVR495, and HVR575. Further analysis of clonal viral populations within single hosts showed that viral variation within HVR495 and HVR575 were subject to intrahost positive selecting forces. Longitudinal analysis of four patients with acute HCV subtype 3a infection sampled at multiple time points showed that positively selected mutations within HVR495 and HVR575 arose early during primary infection. HVR495 and HVR575 were not present in HCV subtypes 1a, 1b, 2a, or 6a. Some variability that was not subject to positive selection was present in subtype 4a HVR575. Further defining the functional significance of these regions may have important implications for genotype 3a E2 virus-receptor interactions and for vaccine studies that aim to induce cross-reactive anti-E2 antibodies.

  • Anonymous

    I had treatment for Hep C 5 years ago I took the treatment for 11 months and did very well with the treatment. my viral load dropped to under 6 parts per million. I never had a biopsy because i did not have insurance and couldn’t afford it. My thyroid has quit working now taking 150 mcg of levothyroxin. will my thyroid ever work again? Is there any thing I should be doing to help my liver remain as healthy as possible? @CARLI

    • Hi,

      this is a scientific paper intended for the research community. I can only suggest you continue to seek the advice of healthcare professionals and liver care suggestions issued by your national public health body.

      Best wishes,