Investigation into the ability of GB virus B to replicate in various immortalized cell lines
GB virus B (GBV-B) is the most closely related virus to the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and is an attractive surrogate model system for HCV drug development efforts. Unfortunately, GBV-B can only be grown in the primary hepatocytes of certain non-human primates. We grew GBV-B in tamarins and marmosets and then used this virus in the absence and presence of lipofection reagents to try to infect 20 different cell lines including human primary hepatocytes and marmoset primary hepatocytes. GBV-B only replicated in marmoset primary hepatocytes. We isolated primary hepatocytes from GBV-B-positive and negative tamarins and marmosets and tried to immortalize the cells using SV40 large T-antigen or cell fusion. GBV-B stable cell lines were constructed in Huh7 and HepG2 cell lines, but there was no evidence for viral replication or a response to antiviral agents in these lines. Infectious full-length GBV-B RNA could be transfected into Vero, Huh7 and HepG2 at high efficiency, however there was no evidence for GBV-B replication or a response to antiviral agents. None of these approaches were successful and an in vitro model of GBV-B replication using immortalized cell lines was not produced. We hypothesize that these immortalized cell lines lack liver-specific factors that are required for GBV-B replication.