Degree and distribution of variability in the 5' untranslated, E1, E2/NS1 and NS5 regions of the hepatitis C virus (HCV)


Dr M. García-Delgado Department of Genetics, School of Sciences, University of Navarra, C/ Irunlarrea s/n, E-31080 Pamplona, Navarra, Spain


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) shows a high degree of variability resulting in many different variants. In this work we described the variability of several subgenomic fragments from the 5' untranslated region (5'-UTR) and E1, E2/NS1 and NS5 regions comparing, for every position, all the sequences published in GenBank® v. 88 (July 1995) as well as new sequences obtained in this work. Variability was determined in two ways. First, we analysed the degree and type of substitutions found in these regions. Second, we defined the most variable and conserved segments in each region and compared our prediction with previous studies. Our results confirm that HCV variability changes along the different regions. Although we found four variable domains in the 5'-UTR, this region was the only one to contain conserved domains. Envelope (E1, E2/NS1) and NS5 regions showed high variability throughout; however, we were able to define six and three hypervariable domains, respectively. The degree and distribution of variability established in this work is supported by the high number of sequences and the different types included in the study. Knowledge of how variability is distributed along the different regions of the HCV genome could be of use in the design of new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies against HCV infection.