Characterization of resistance to the protease inhibitor boceprevir in hepatitis C virus–infected patients


  • Potential conflict of interest: Eric Hughes, Robert Ralston, and Xiao Tong are employees of Schering Plough Research Institute. Stefan Zeuzem and Christoph Sarrazin have received research support from Schering Plough Research Institute and Vertex.


Boceprevir is a hepatitis C virus (HCV) nonstructural protein (NS) 3/4A protease inhibitor that is currently being evaluated in combination with peginterferon alfa-2b and ribavirin in phase 3 studies. The clinical resistance profile of boceprevir is not characterized in detail so far. The NS3 protease domain of viral RNA was cloned from HCV genotype 1–infected patients (n = 22). A mean number of 47 clones were sequenced before, at the end, and after treatment with 400 mg boceprevir twice or three times daily for 14 days for genotypic, phenotypic, and viral fitness analysis. At the end of treatment, a wild-type an NS3 protease sequence was observed with a mean frequency of 85.9%. In the remaining isolates, five previously observed resistance mutations (V36M/A, T54A/S, R155K/T, A156S, V170A) and one mutation (V55A) with unknown resistance to boceprevir were detected either alone or in combination. Phenotypic analysis in the HCV replicon assay showed low (V36G, T54S, R155L; 3.8- to 5.5-fold 50% inhibitory concentration [IC50]), medium (V55A, R155K, V170A, T54A, A156S; 6.8- to 17.7-fold IC50) and high level (A156T; >120-fold IC50) resistance to boceprevir. The overall frequency of resistant mutations and the level of resistance increased with greater declines in mean maximum HCV RNA levels. Two weeks after the end of treatment, the frequency of resistant variants declined and the number of wild-type isolates increased to 95.5%. With the exception of V36 and V170 variants all resistant mutations declined by more than 50%. Mathematical modeling revealed impaired replicative fitness for all single mutations, whereas for combined mutations a relative increase of replication efficiency was suggested. Conclusion: During boceprevir monotherapy, resistance mutations at six positions within the NS3 protease were detected by way of clonal sequence analysis. All mutations are associated with reduced replicative fitness estimated by mathematical modeling and show cross-resistance to telaprevir. (HEPATOLOGY 2009.)