Cloned cDNA probes derived from the P1 and P2 regions of the genome of HM175 virus, a reference strain of human hepatitis A virus (HAV), failed to hybridize under standard stringency criteria with RNA from PA21 and PA33 viruses, two epizootiologically related HAV strains recovered from naturally infected New World owl monkeys. Hybridization of these probes to PA21 RNA was only evident under reduced stringency conditions. However, cDNA representing the 5' nontranslated region of the HM175 genome hybridized equally to HM175 and PA21 RNA under standard stringency conditions, while a probe derived from the 3' 1,400 bases of the genome yielded a reduced hybridization signal with PA21 RNA. In contrast, no differences could be discerned between HM175 virus and three other HAV strains of human origin (GR8, LV374, and MS1) in any region of the genome, unless increased stringency conditions were used. These results suggest that PA21 and PA33 are unique among HAV isolates and may represent a virus native to the owl monkey. Despite extremely poor homology within the P1 region, which encodes capsid polypeptides, monoclonal antibody analysis confirmed that the immunodominant neutralization epitopes of HAV were highly conserved between HM175 and PA21 viruses. Furthermore, experimental challenge of the owl monkey with successive PA33 and HM175 inocula confirmed a high but incomplete degree of cross-protection. Only one of six monkeys previously infected with PA33 developed recurrent hepatitis 28 days after intravenous HM175 challenge, while none of six monkeys previously infected with HM175 had demonstrable hepatitis following PA33 challenge. These data provide molecular evidence for the existence of HAV strains unique to nonhuman primate species and indicate that strict conservation of antigenic function may accompany substantial genetic divergence in HAV.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science