Quantifying the Diversification of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) during Primary Infection: Estimates of the In Vivo Mutation Rate
ABSTRACT Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is present in the host with multiple variants generated by its error prone RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Little is known about the initial viral diversification and the viral life cycle processes that influence diversity. We studied the diversification of HCV during acute infection in 17 plasma donors, with frequent sampling early in infection. To analyze these data, we developed a new stochastic model of the HCV life cycle. We found that the accumulation of mutations is surprisingly slow: at 30 days, the viral population on average is still 46% identical to its transmitted viral genome. Fitting the model to the sequence data, we estimate the median in vivo viral mutation rate is 2.5×10⁻⁵ mutations per nucleotide per genome replication (range 1.6-6.2×10⁻⁵), about 5-fold lower than previous estimates. To confirm these results we analyzed the frequency of stop codons (N = 10) among all possible non-sense mutation targets (M = 898,335), and found a mutation rate of 2.8-3.2×10⁻⁵, consistent with the estimate from the dynamical model. The slow accumulation of mutations is consistent with slow turnover of infected cells and replication complexes within infected cells. This slow turnover is also inferred from the viral load kinetics. Our estimated mutation rate, which is similar to that of other RNA viruses (e.g., HIV and influenza), is also compatible with the accumulation of substitutions seen in HCV at the population level. Our model identifies the relevant processes (long-lived cells and slow turnover of replication complexes) and parameters involved in determining the rate of HCV diversification.
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ABSTRACT: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is characterized by persistent replication of a complex mixture of viruses termed a “quasispecies.” Transmission is generally associated with a stringent population bottleneck characterized by infection by limited numbers of “transmitted/founder” (T/F) viruses. Characterization of T/F genomes of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) has been integral to studies of transmission, immunopathogenesis, and vaccine development. Here, we describe the identification of complete T/F genomes of HCV by single-genome sequencing of plasma viral RNA from acutely infected subjects. A total of 2,739 single-genome-derived amplicons comprising 10,966,507 bp from 18 acute-phase and 11 chronically infected subjects were analyzed. Acute-phase sequences diversified essentially randomly, except for the poly(U/UC) tract, which was subject to polymerase slippage. Fourteen acute-phase subjects were productively infected by more than one genetically distinct virus, permitting assessment of recombination between replicating genomes. No evidence of recombination was found among 1,589 sequences analyzed. Envelope sequences of T/F genomes lacked transmission signatures that could distinguish them from chronic infection viruses. Among chronically infected subjects, higher nucleotide substitution rates were observed in the poly(U/UC) tract than in envelope hypervariable region 1. Fourteen full-length molecular clones with variable poly(U/UC) sequences corresponding to seven genotype 1a, 1b, 3a, and 4a T/F viruses were generated. Like most unadapted HCV clones, T/F genomes did not replicate efficiently in Huh 7.5 cells, indicating that additional cellular factors or viral adaptations are necessary for in vitro replication. Full-length T/F HCV genomes and their progeny provide unique insights into virus transmission, virus evolution, and virus-host interactions associated with immunopathogenesis.mBio 02/2015; 6(2). DOI:10.1128/mBio.02518-14 · 6.88 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Identifying HCV drug resistance mutations (DRMs) is increasingly important as new direct acting antiviral therapies (DAA) become available. Tagged pooled pyrosequencing (TPP) was originally developed as cost-effective approach for detecting low abundance HIV DRMs. Using 127 HCV-positive samples from a Canadian injection drug user cohort, we demonstrated the suitability and efficiency of TPP for evaluating DRMs in HCV NS5B gene. At a mutation identification threshold of 1%, no nucleoside inhibitor DRMs were detected among these DAA naïve subjects. Clinical NS5B resistance to non-nucleoside inhibitors and interferon/ribavirin was predicted to be low within this cohort. S282T mutation, the primary mutation selected by sofosbuvir in vitro, was not identified while S282G/C/R variants were detected in 9 subjects. Further characterization on these new S282 variants using in silico molecular modeling implied their potential association with resistance. Combining TPP with in silico analysis detects NS5B polymorphisms that may explain differences in treatment outcomes.
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ABSTRACT: We analyzed the impact of pretreatment variants conferring boceprevir-resistance on sustained virologic response (SVR) rates achieved with boceprevir plus peginterferon-α/ribavirin (P/R) for hepatitis C virus (HCV)-genotype-1 infection. NS3-protease-polymorphisms emerging coincident with virologic failure on boceprevir/P/R regimens were identified as resistance-associated variants (RAVs). Baseline samples pooled from 6 phase II or phase III clinical trials were analyzed for RAVs by population sequencing. Interferon (IFN)-responsiveness was predefined as >1 log reduction in HCV-RNA level during the initial 4-week lead-in treatment with P/R before boceprevir was added. The effective boceprevir-concentration inhibiting RAV growth by 50% (EC50) was determined using a replicon assay relative to the wild-type referent. Sequencing was performed in 2241 of 2353 patients (95.2%) treated with boceprevir. At baseline, RAVs were detected in 178 patients (7.9%), including 153 of 1498 genotype-1a infections (10.2%) and 25 of 742 genotype-1b infections (3.4%) (relative risk, 3.03; 95% confidence interval [CI], [2.01, 4.58]). For IFN-responders, SVR24 (SVR assessed 24 weeks after discontinuation of all study medications) rates were 78% and 76% with or without RAVs detected at baseline, respectively. For the 510 poor IFN-responders, SVR24 rates were 8 of 36 subjects (22.2% [11.7%, 38.1%]) when baseline RAVs were detected vs 174 of 474 subjects (36.7% [32.5%, 41.1%]) when baseline RAVs were not detected (relative likelihood of SVR24 [95% CI], 0.61 [0.32, 1.05]). Sustained virologic response was achieved in 7 of 8 (87.5%) IFN-nonresponders with baseline variants exhibiting ≤2-fold increased EC50 for boceprevir in a replicon assay, whereas only 1 of 15 (7%) IFN-nonresponders with baseline RAVs associated with ≥3-fold increased EC50 achieved SVR. Baseline protease-variants appear to negatively impact SVR rates for boceprevir/P/R regimens only when associated with decreased boceprevir susceptibility in vitro after a poor IFN-response during the lead-in period.09/2014; 1(2):ofu078. DOI:10.1093/ofid/ofu078