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Keywords:

  • alanine aminotransferase;
  • hepatitis virus;
  • non-A–E hepatitis;
  • RNA helicase

Aim:  In Japan, the etiology of 10–20% of cases of acute hepatitis remains unclarified. This study was conducted to verify the agent causing non-A–E hepatitis.

Methods:  Serum samples from 500 blood donors with elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels were screened by polymerase chain reaction using primers constructed from conserved areas of RNA virus helicase. The sequence obtained was investigated for viral properties.

Results:  Four blood samples were found to contain a novel DNA sequence of 9496 bp, which was designated KIs-V. KIs-V was sensitive to the restriction enzyme SalI and BstXI. Rolling-circle amplification produced an excessive amount of KIs-V DNA. In sucrose density gradient ultracentrifugation, KIs-V banded at a 1.158-g/cm3 density. Detergent treatment increased the density of KIs-V. There was no KIs-V DNA amplification from human leukocyte DNA. Serial filtration suggested that KIs-V was included in a 30–50-nm size particle. In silico analysis revealed that KIs-V contained 13 potential genes, none of which showed homology to any viral proteins reported. One gene showed similarity to a DNA polymerase domain. Strong signals for transcription initiation and a CpG island were identified. The nucleotide composition of KIs-V showed a characteristic feature of circular DNA genomes that contain a replication origin and a terminus. In a preliminary study, KIs-V was frequently identified among hepatitis E virus antibody positive individuals with elevated ALT levels.

Conclusion:  A new sequence KIs-V was isolated from blood donors with elevated ALT levels. It was suggested that KIs-V is a double-stranded circular DNA genome derived from a novel category of enveloped viruses.