Persistent infection is a key feature of hepatitis C virus (HCV). However, chimpanzee infections with cell culture-derived viruses (JFH1 or related chimeric viruses that replicate efficiently in cell culture) have been limited to acute-transient infections with no pathogenicity. Here, we report persistent infection with chronic hepatitis in a chimpanzee challenged with cell culture-derived genotype 1a virus (H77S.2) containing 6 cell culture-adaptive mutations. Following acute-transient infection with a chimeric H77/JFH1 virus (HJ3-5), intravenous (i.v.) challenge with 106 FFU H77S.2 virus resulted in immediate seroconversion and, following an unusual 4-to 6-week delay, persistent viremia accompanied by alanine aminotransferase (ALT) elevation, intrahepatic innate immune responses, and diffuse hepatopathy. This first persistent infection with cell culture-produced HCV provided a unique opportunity to assess evolution of cell culture-adapted virus in vivo. Synonymous and nonsynonymous nucleotide substitution rates were greatest during the first 8 weeks of infection. Of 6 cell culture-adaptive mutations in H77S.2, Q1067R (NS3) had reverted to Q1067 and S2204I (NS5A) was replaced by T2204 within 8 weeks of infection. By 62 weeks, 4 of 6 mutations had reverted to the wild-type sequence, and all reverted to the wild-type sequence by 194 weeks. The data suggest H77S.2 virus has greater potential for persistence and pathogenicity than JFH1 and demonstrate both the capacity of a nonfit virus to persist for weeks in the liver in the absence of detectable viremia as well as strong selective pressure against cell culture-adaptive mutations in vivo.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science