Marked sequence diversity in the putative envelope proteins of hepatitis C viruses

Nobuyuki Kato, Yuko Ootsuyama, Torahiko Tanaka, Masanori Nakagawa, Takahide Nakazawa, Kanae Muraiso, Showgo Ohkoshi, Makoto Hijikata, Kunitada Shimotohno

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154 Citations (Scopus)


The nucleotide sequences of cDNAs (414 base pairs) encoding parts of putative envelope proteins (gp35 and gp70) of 40 isolates of hepatitis C virus (HCV-J) derived from 30 independent plasma or liver specimens from Japanese patients (13 with chronic hepatitis, 14 with hepatocellular carcinoma and 3 hemophiliacs who had received imported clotting factors), were analyzed using the polymerase chain reaction. Approximately 29-38% of the nucleotide sequences of the HCV-J isolates examined differed from those of isolates from the United States (HCV-US). Furthermore, 12-24% and 8-17% sequence diversities were found within the isolates of HCV-J and HCV-US, respectively. The diversities of the amino acid sequences were the same or greater than those of the nucleotide sequences. We confirmed that two hypervariable regions (HVR1 and HVR2) were present in this amplified region, as described in our previous report (Hijikata et al., 1991a) and we found that the HVR1 regions of HCV-J and HCV-US were 27 and 21 amino acids in length, respectively, and began from the N-terminal amino acid of gp70. HVR2 was found in HCV-J, but not in HCV-US isolates, in which the corresponding region of the genome was conserved. During the analysis, plural HCV genomes were found in 6 of 30 specimens. These plural HCV genomes in a single specimen were concluded to be derived from the same HCV ancestor, because of their relative low sequence diversities (about 10% in their nucleotide sequences). We also obtained evidence for the first time that RNA recombination occurred between plural HCV genomes in a single patient. These results suggest that the mutation rate in the envelope region of the HCV genome is quite high and that the genetic heterogeneity of this region may be involved in persistent HCV infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-123
Number of pages17
JournalVirus research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1992


  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Hypervariable region
  • Non-A, non-B hepatitis
  • Nucleotide sequence
  • Polymerase chain reaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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