Correlation between mutations in the core and NS5A genes of hepatitis C virus genotypes 1a, 1b, 3a, 3b, 6f and the response to pegylated interferon and ribavirin combination therapy

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Summary.Several studies have reported correlation between mutations in core and NS5A proteins of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and response to interferon (IFN) therapy. In particular, mutations in NS5A protein have been shown to correlate with responsiveness to IFN treatment of HCV-1b in Japanese patients. This study investigated whether amino acid (aa) mutations in the core and NS5A proteins of HCV-1a, 1b, 3a, 3b and 6f correlated with the response to pegylated interferon (Peg-IFN) plus ribavirin (RBV) therapy in Thai patients. The entire sequences of core and NS5A of HCV from 76 HCV-infected patients were analysed in comparison with corresponding reference sequences. The data revealed that the number of aa mutations in full-length NS5A, its C-terminus, IFN sensitivity-determining region, variable region 3 (V3) and V3 plus flanking region of HCV-1b NS5A protein were significantly higher in responders than in the treatment failure group (P =0.010, 0.031, 0.046, 0.020 and 0.006, respectively). Similar results were found in a putative protein kinase R binding domain region in HCV-6f NS5A protein (P =0.022). Moreover, specific aa substitutions in NS5A that appeared to be associated with responders or the treatment failure group were observed at positions 78 and 305 for HCV-1b (P =0.028), 64 and 52 for HCV-1a (P =0.033) and 6f (P =0.045). Nevertheless, analysis of aa sequences of core protein revealed highly conserved sequences among HCV genotypes and no significant differences between the viruses from responders and the treatment failure group. Our findings indicate that mutations in aa residues of NS5A of HCV-1a, 1b and 6f correlated well with responsiveness to Peg-IFN and RBV combination therapy.

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