Enhancement of the Replication of Hepatitis C Virus Replicons of Genotypes 1 to 4 by Manipulation of CpG and UpA Dinucleotide Frequencies and Use of Cell Lines Expressing SECL14L2 for Antiviral Resistance Testing.
Witteveldt J., Martin-Gans M., Simmonds P.
Treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV) has improved greatly through the use of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). However, their effectiveness and potential for drug resistance development in non-genotype 1 variants of HCV remain relatively unexplored, as in vitro assays to assess drug susceptibility are poorly developed and unsuited for a transient-transfection format. In the current study, we have evaluated the effects of dinucleotide frequency changes in the replicon and the use of a SEC14L2-expressing cell line on the replication of HCVs of different genotypes and evaluated the resulting assay formats for measurements of susceptibility to the DAA sofosbuvir. Removal of CpG and UpA dinucleotides from the luciferase gene used in HCV replicons of genotype 1b (Con1) and genotype 2a (JFH-1) achieved between 10- and 100-fold enhancement of replication over that of the wild type posttransfection. Removal of CpG and UpA dinucleotides in the neomycin gene or deletion of the whole gene in replicons of genotype 3a (S52) and genotype 4a (ED43) enhanced replication, but phenotypic effects on altering luciferase gene composition were minimal. A further 10-fold replication enhancement of replicons from all four genotypes was achieved by using a transgenic Huh7.5 cell line expressing SECL14L2, whose expression showed a dose-dependent effect on HCV replication that was reversible by small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown of gene expression. By combining these strategies, the 100- to 1,000-fold enhancement of replication allowed the susceptibility of all four genotypes to the RNA polymerase inhibitor sofosbuvir to be robustly determined in a transient-transfection assay format. These methods of replication enhancement provide new tools for monitoring the susceptibility and resistance of a wide range of HCV genotypes to DAAs.