April 21, 2020  |  

Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies Targeting New Sites of Vulnerability in Hepatitis C Virus E1E2.

Increasing evidence indicates that broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) play an important role in immune-mediated control of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, but the relative contribution of neutralizing antibodies targeting antigenic sites across the HCV envelope (E1 and E2) proteins is unclear. Here, we isolated thirteen E1E2-specific monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) from B cells of a single HCV-infected individual who cleared one genotype 1a infection and then became persistently infected with a second genotype 1a strain. These MAbs bound six distinct discontinuous antigenic sites on the E1 protein, the E2 protein, or the E1E2 heterodimer. Three antigenic sites, designated AS108, AS112 (an N-terminal E1 site), and AS146, were distinct from previously described antigenic regions (ARs) 1 to 5 and E1 sites. Antibodies targeting four sites (AR3, AR4-5, AS108, and AS146) were broadly neutralizing. These MAbs also displayed distinct patterns of relative neutralizing potency (i.e., neutralization profiles) across a panel of diverse HCV strains, which led to complementary neutralizing breadth when they were tested in combination. Overall, this study demonstrates that HCV bNAb epitopes are not restricted to previously described antigenic sites, expanding the number of sites that could be targeted for vaccine development.IMPORTANCE Worldwide, more than 70 million people are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is a leading cause of hepatocellular carcinoma and liver transplantation. Despite the development of potent direct acting antivirals (DAAs) for HCV treatment, a vaccine is urgently needed due to the high cost of treatment and the possibility of reinfection after cure. Induction of multiple broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) that target distinct epitopes on the HCV envelope proteins is one approach to vaccine development. However, antigenic sites targeted by bNAbs in individuals with spontaneous control of HCV have not been fully defined. In this study, we characterize 13 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) from a single person who cleared an HCV infection without treatment, and we identify 3 new sites targeted by neutralizing antibodies. The sites targeted by these MAbs could inform HCV vaccine development. Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.


September 22, 2019  |  

Single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing comes of age: applications and utilities for medical diagnostics.

Short read massive parallel sequencing has emerged as a standard diagnostic tool in the medical setting. However, short read technologies have inherent limitations such as GC bias, difficulties mapping to repetitive elements, trouble discriminating paralogous sequences, and difficulties in phasing alleles. Long read single molecule sequencers resolve these obstacles. Moreover, they offer higher consensus accuracies and can detect epigenetic modifications from native DNA. The first commercially available long read single molecule platform was the RS system based on PacBio’s single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing technology, which has since evolved into their RSII and Sequel systems. Here we capsulize how SMRT sequencing is revolutionizing constitutional, reproductive, cancer, microbial and viral genetic testing.© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


July 19, 2019  |  

A method for near full-length amplification and sequencing for six hepatitis C virus genotypes.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a rapidly evolving RNA virus that has been classified into seven genotypes. All HCV genotypes cause chronic hepatitis, which ultimately leads to liver diseases such as cirrhosis. The genotypes are unevenly distributed across the globe, with genotypes 1 and 3 being the most prevalent. Until recently, molecular epidemiological studies of HCV evolution within the host and at the population level have been limited to the analyses of partial viral genome segments, as it has been technically challenging to amplify and sequence the full-length of the 9.6 kb HCV genome. Although recent improvements have been made in full genome sequencing methodologies, these protocols are still either limited to a specific genotype or cost-inefficient.In this study we describe a genotype-specific protocol for the amplification and sequencing of the near-full length genome of all six major HCV genotypes. We applied this protocol to 122 HCV positive clinical samples, and had a successful genome amplification rate of 90 %, when the viral load was greater than 15,000 IU/ml. The assay was shown to have a detection limit of 1-3 cDNA copies per reaction. The method was tested with both Illumina and PacBio single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing technologies. Illumina sequencing resulted in deep coverage and allowed detection of rare variants as well as HCV co-infection with multiple genotypes. The application of the method with PacBio RS resulted in sequence reads greater than 9 kb that covered the near full-length HCV amplicon in a single read and enabled analysis of the near full-length quasispecies.The protocol described herein can be utilised for rapid amplification and sequencing of the near-full length HCV genome in a cost efficient manner suitable for a wide range of applications.


July 19, 2019  |  

Characterization of hepatitis C virus (HCV) envelope diversification from acute to chronic infection within a sexually transmitted HCV cluster by using single-molecule, real-time sequencing.

In contrast to other available next-generation sequencing platforms, PacBio single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing has the advantage of generating long reads albeit with a relatively higher error rate in unprocessed data. Using this platform, we longitudinally sampled and sequenced the hepatitis C virus (HCV) envelope genome region (1,680 nucleotides [nt]) from individuals belonging to a cluster of sexually transmitted cases. All five subjects were coinfected with HIV-1 and a closely related strain of HCV genotype 4d. In total, 50 samples were analyzed by using SMRT sequencing. By using 7 passes of circular consensus sequencing, the error rate was reduced to 0.37%, and the median number of sequences was 612 per sample. A further reduction of insertions was achieved by alignment against a sample-specific reference sequence. However, in vitro recombination during PCR amplification could not be excluded. Phylogenetic analysis supported close relationships among HCV sequences from the four male subjects and subsequent transmission from one subject to his female partner. Transmission was characterized by a strong genetic bottleneck. Viral genetic diversity was low during acute infection and increased upon progression to chronicity but subsequently fluctuated during chronic infection, caused by the alternate detection of distinct coexisting lineages. SMRT sequencing combines long reads with sufficient depth for many phylogenetic analyses and can therefore provide insights into within-host HCV evolutionary dynamics without the need for haplotype reconstruction using statistical algorithms.IMPORTANCE Next-generation sequencing has revolutionized the study of genetically variable RNA virus populations, but for phylogenetic and evolutionary analyses, longer sequences than those generated by most available platforms, while minimizing the intrinsic error rate, are desired. Here, we demonstrate for the first time that PacBio SMRT sequencing technology can be used to generate full-length HCV envelope sequences at the single-molecule level, providing a data set with large sequencing depth for the characterization of intrahost viral dynamics. The selection of consensus reads derived from at least 7 full circular consensus sequencing rounds significantly reduced the intrinsic high error rate of this method. We used this method to genetically characterize a unique transmission cluster of sexually transmitted HCV infections, providing insight into the distinct evolutionary pathways in each patient over time and identifying the transmission-associated genetic bottleneck as well as fluctuations in viral genetic diversity over time, accompanied by dynamic shifts in viral subpopulations. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.


July 19, 2019  |  

Evolution of multi-drug resistant HCV clones from pre-existing resistant-associated variants during direct-acting antiviral therapy determined by third-generation sequencing.

Resistance-associated variant (RAV) is one of the most significant clinical challenges in treating HCV-infected patients with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). We investigated the viral dynamics in patients receiving DAAs using third-generation sequencing technology. Among 283 patients with genotype-1b HCV receiving daclatasvir?+?asunaprevir (DCV/ASV), 32 (11.3%) failed to achieve sustained virological response (SVR). Conventional ultra-deep sequencing of HCV genome was performed in 104 patients (32 non-SVR, 72 SVR), and detected representative RAVs in all non-SVR patients at baseline, including Y93H in 28 (87.5%). Long contiguous sequences spanning NS3 to NS5A regions of each viral clone in 12 sera from 6 representative non-SVR patients were determined by third-generation sequencing, and showed the concurrent presence of several synonymous mutations linked to resistance-associated substitutions in a subpopulation of pre-existing RAVs and dominant isolates at treatment failure. Phylogenetic analyses revealed close genetic distances between pre-existing RAVs and dominant RAVs at treatment failure. In addition, multiple drug-resistant mutations developed on pre-existing RAVs after DCV/ASV in all non-SVR cases. In conclusion, multi-drug resistant viral clones at treatment failure certainly originated from a subpopulation of pre-existing RAVs in HCV-infected patients. Those RAVs were selected for and became dominant with the acquisition of multiple resistance-associated substitutions under DAA treatment pressure.


July 7, 2019  |  

Deep sequencing in the management of hepatitis virus infections.

The hepatitis viruses represent a major public health problem worldwide. Procedures for characterization of the genomic composition of their populations, accurate diagnosis, identification of multiple infections, and information on inhibitor-escape mutants for treatment decisions are needed. Deep sequencing methodologies are extremely useful for these viruses since they replicate as complex and dynamic quasispecies swarms whose complexity and mutant composition are biologically relevant traits. Population complexity is a major challenge for disease prevention and control, but also an opportunity to distinguish among related but phenotypically distinct variants that might anticipate disease progression and treatment outcome. Detailed characterization of mutant spectra should permit choosing better treatment options, given the increasing number of new antiviral inhibitors available. In the present review we briefly summarize our experience on the use of deep sequencing for the management of hepatitis virus infections, particularly for hepatitis B and C viruses, and outline some possible new applications of deep sequencing for these important human pathogens. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Characterization of miR-122-independent propagation of HCV.

miR-122, a liver-specific microRNA, is one of the determinants for liver tropism of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Although miR-122 is required for efficient propagation of HCV, we have previously shown that HCV replicates at a low rate in miR-122-deficient cells, suggesting that HCV-RNA is capable of propagating in an miR-122-independent manner. We herein investigated the roles of miR-122 in both the replication of HCV-RNA and the production of infectious particles by using miR-122-knockout Huh7 (Huh7-122KO) cells. A slight increase of intracellular HCV-RNA levels and infectious titers in the culture supernatants was observed in Huh7-122KO cells upon infection with HCV. Moreover, after serial passages of HCV in miR-122-knockout Huh7.5.1 cells, we obtained an adaptive mutant, HCV122KO, possessing G28A substitution in the 5’UTR of the HCV genotype 2a JFH1 genome, and this mutant may help to enhance replication complex formation, a possibility supported by polysome analysis. We also found the introduction of adaptive mutation around miR-122 binding site in the genotype 1b/2a chimeric virus, which originally had an adenine at the nucleotide position 29. HCV122KO exhibited efficient RNA replication in miR-122-knockout cells and non-hepatic cells without exogenous expression of miR-122. Competition assay revealed that the G28A mutant was dominant in the absence of miR-122, but its effects were equivalent to those of the wild type in the presence of miR-122, suggesting that the G28A mutation does not confer an advantage for propagation in miR-122-rich hepatocytes. These observations may explain the clinical finding that the positive rate of G28A mutation was higher in miR-122-deficient PBMCs than in the patient serum, which mainly included the hepatocyte-derived virus from HCV-genotype-2a patients. These results suggest that the emergence of HCV mutants that can propagate in non-hepatic cells in an miR-122-independent manner may participate in the induction of extrahepatic manifestations in chronic hepatitis C patients.


July 7, 2019  |  

Analysis of hepatitis C NS5A resistance associated polymorphisms using ultra deep single molecule real time (SMRT) sequencing.

Development of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) resistance against direct-acting antivirals (DAAs), including NS5A inhibitors, is an obstacle to successful treatment of HCV when DAAs are used in sub-optimal combinations. Furthermore, it has been shown that baseline (pre-existing) resistance against DAAs is present in treatment naïve-patients and this will potentially complicate future treatment strategies in different HCV genotypes (GTs). Thus the aim was to detect low levels of NS5A resistant associated variants (RAVs) in a limited sample set of treatment-naïve patients of HCV GT1a and 3a, since such polymorphisms can display in vitro resistance as high as 60000 fold. Ultra-deep single molecule real time (SMRT) sequencing with the Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) RSII instrument was used to detect these RAVs. The SMRT sequencing was conducted on ten samples; three of them positive with Sanger sequencing (GT1a Q30H and Y93N, and GT3a Y93H), five GT1a samples, and two GT3a non-positive samples. The same methods were applied to the HCV GT1a H77-plasmid in a dilution series, in order to determine the error rates of replication, which in turn was used to determine the limit of detection (LOD), as defined by mean + 3SD, of minority variants down to 0.24%. We found important baseline NS5A RAVs at levels between 0.24 and 0.5%, which could potentially have clinical relevance. This new method with low level detection of baseline RAVs could be useful in predicting the most cost-efficient combination of DAA treatment, and reduce the treatment duration for an HCV infected individual. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Next-generation sequencing: a diagnostic one-stop shop for Hepatitis C?

Before starting chronic hepatitis C treatment, the viral genotype/subtype has to be accurately determined and potentially coupled with drug resistance testing. Due to the high genetic variability of the hepatitis C virus, this can be a demanding task that can potentially be streamlined by viral whole-genome sequencing using next-generation sequencing as demonstrated by an article in this issue of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology by E. Thomson, C. L. C. Ip, A. Badhan, M. T. Christiansen, W. Adamson, et al. (J Clin Microbiol. 54:2455-2469, 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JCM.00330-16). Copyright © 2016, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


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