, Volume 157, Issue 4, pp 703-711
Date: 22 Jan 2012

Analysis of the PKR-eIF2alpha phosphorylation homology domain (PePHD) of hepatitis C virus genotype 1 in HIV-coinfected patients by ultra-deep pyrosequencing and its relationship to responses to pegylated interferon-ribavirin treatment

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Chronic coinfection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is among the greatest challenges facing public health worldwide. In this population, the response to hepatitis C therapy by treatment with pegylated interferon plus ribavirin (PEG-IFN+RBV) is lower than in HCV-monoinfected patients, particularly in those infected by HCV genotype 1. A PKR/eIF-2α phosphorylation homology domain (PePHD) within the E2 protein has been found to interact with PKR and inhibit PKR in vitro, suggesting a possible mechanism for HCV to evade the antiviral effects of IFN. The aim of this work was to analyze the amino acid conservation in the HCV-E2-PePHD and quasispecies diversity among HCV-HIV-coinfected patients exhibiting sustained virological response, non-response, or partial response with viral relapse to PEG-IFN+RBV by ultra-deep pyrosequencing. For this purpose, HCV-E2-PePHD PCR products were generated and sequenced directly for four patients with a sustained response, seven patients with no virological response, and four patients with viral relapse before and after treatment with PEG-IFN+RBV. HCV-E2-PePHD amino acid sequences were obtained for isolates from serum collected before and during treatment (24 h, 4 weeks, and 12 weeks). Quasispecies analysis of the HCV-E2-PePHD and flanking genomic regions was performed using 454/Roche pyrosequencing, analyzing 39,364 sequence reads in total. The HCV-E2-PePHD sequence at the amino acid and nucleotide level was highly conserved among HCV genotype 1 strains, irrespective of the PEG-IFN+RBV response. This high degree of amino acid conservation and sporadic mutations in the HCV-E2-PePHD domain do not appear to be associated with treatment outcome. The HCV-E2-PePHD sequence before or during treatment cannot be used to predict reliably the outcome of treatment in patients coinfected with HCV genotype 1 and HIV.