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Abstract

HCV reoccurs after liver transplantation and increases mortality. Cyclosporine, but not tacrolimus, has potent antiviral effects against HCV replication in cell culture. To determine the conditions, if any, under which HCV is susceptible to cyclosporine in vivo, we selected for cyclosporine-resistant mutant HCV in vitro. The resulting mutations were mapped to x-ray crystallographic structures and sequence databases. Mutations selected by cyclosporine were clustered in the nonstructural (NS) proteins NS5A and NS5B. Different sets of mutations in NS5A, paired with the same 2 NS5B mutations, conferred different levels of cyclosporine resistance when engineered back into the HCV replicon. Mutations in NS5B are structurally consistent with a proposed model of regulation of RNA binding by cyclophilin B (CyPB). These mutations also highlight a natural polymorphism between different HCV genotypes that correlates with the variation in response to cyclosporine A (CsA) noted in some clinical trials. Replicons engineered to have mutations in only NS5A (P ≤ 0.0001) or only NS5B (P = 0.002) suggest that while both NS5A or NS5B variants alter cyclosporine susceptibility, NS5A has the largest effect. Conclusion: Preexisting sequence variation could alter the effect of cyclosporine on HCV in vivo. (HEPATOLOGY 2007.)