Infection of common marmosets with hepatitis C virus/GB virus-B chimeras


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

  • Supported by the grants from National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program No. 2012CBA01305, 2010CB530204 and 2009CB522507), S&T Grand Special Program of China (No. 2009ZX10004-305), National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30972765 and 81071348), and Guangdong Provincial S&T Project (No. 2010B060500010).


The development of vaccination and novel therapy for hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been hampered by the lack of suitable small-animal models. GB virus B (GBV-B), closely related to HCV, causes viral hepatitis in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchue jacchus) and might represent an attractive surrogate model for HCV infection. However, differences exist between GBV-B and HCV in spite of a short genetic distance between the two viruses. Here we report common marmosets infected with two HCV/GBV-B chimeras containing HCV structural genes coding for either whole core and envelope proteins (CE1E2p7) or full envelope proteins (E1E2p7) substituted for the counterpart elements of GBV-B. Naïve animals intrahepatically injected with chimeric RNA transcripts or intravenously injected with sera from primary infected animals produced high levels of circulating infectious chimeric viruses and they developed chronic infection. Tacrolimus-treated marmosets inoculated with a CE1E2p7 chimera had higher viral loads and long-term persistent infection. A moderate elevation of serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels was observed in parallel with viral replication. Chimeras recovered from liver samples revealed 1/958 adaptive viral mutations. Histopathological changes typical of viral hepatitis were observed in liver tissues from all types of HCV chimeras-infected marmosets. HCV core and E2 proteins were detected in liver tissues from infected animals by immunohistochemical staining. Fluctuations of chimeric virus replication in marmosets with spontaneous and sporadic viral clearance might be related to specific antibody and T-cell response to HCV proteins in vivo. Replication of CE1E2p7 chimera was observed in primary hepatocyte cultures by immunofluorescent staining in vitro. Conclusion: Infectious HCV chimeras causing chronic hepatitis in marmosets might constitute a small primate model suitable for evaluation of virus-cell interaction, vaccination, and antiviral therapy against HCV infection. (Hepatology 2014;59:789–802)