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Ribavirin Resistance in Hepatitis C Virus Replicon-Containing Cell Lines Conferred by Changes in the Cell Line or Mutations in the Replicon RNA

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
  • Replication
  • Medicine


Ribavirin (RBV), used in combination with alpha interferon to treat hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, is a guanosine nucleotide analog that can increase the error rate of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases, imbalance intracellular nucleotide pools, and cause toxicity in many cell types. To determine potential mechanisms of RBV resistance during HCV RNA replication, we passaged HCV replicon-containing cell lines in the presence of increasing concentrations of RBV. RBV-resistant, HCV replicon-containing cell lines were generated, and the majority of RBV resistance was found to be conferred by changes in the cell lines. The resistant cell lines were defective in RBV import, as measured by [3H]RBV uptake experiments. These cell lines displayed reduced RBV toxicity and reduced error accumulation during infection with poliovirus, whose replication is known to be sensitive to RBV-induced error. For one RBV-resistant isolate, two mutations in the replicon RNA contributed to the observed phenotype. Two responsible mutations resided in the C-terminal region of NS5A, G404S, and E442G and were each sufficient for low-level RBV resistance. Therefore, RBV resistance in HCV replicon cell lines can be conferred by changes in the cell line or by mutations in the HCV replicon.

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