Hepatitis E Virus Shows More Genomic Alterations in Cell Culture than In Vivo

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Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) mutations following ribavirin treatment have been associated with treatment non-response and viral persistence, but spontaneous occurring genomic variations have been less well characterized. We here set out to study the HEV genome composition in 2 patient sample types and 2 infection models. Near full HEV genome Sanger sequences of serum- and feces-derived HEV from two chronic HEV genotype 3 (gt3) patients were obtained. In addition, viruses were sequenced after in vitro or in vivo expansion on A549 cells or a humanized mouse model, respectively. We show that HEV acquired 19 nucleotide mutations, of which 7 nonsynonymous amino acids changes located in Open Reading Frame 1 (ORF1), ORF2, and ORF3 coding regions, after prolonged in vitro culture. In vivo passage resulted in selection of 8 nucleotide mutations with 2 altered amino acids in the X domain and Poly-proline region of ORF1. Intra-patient comparison of feces- and serum-derived HEV gt3 of two patients showed 7 and 2 nucleotide mutations with 2 and 0 amino acid changes, respectively. Overall, the number of genomic alterations was up to 1.25x per 1000 nucleotides or amino acids in in vivo samples, and up to 2.84x after in vitro expansion of the same clinical HEV strain. In vitro replication of a clinical HEV strain is therefore associated with more mutations, compared to the minor HEV genomic alterations seen after passage of the same strain in an immune deficient humanized mouse; as well as in feces and blood of 2 immunosuppressed chronically infected HEV patients. These data suggest that HEV infected humanized mice more closely reflect the HEV biology seen in solid organ transplant recipients.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Article numberWOS:000506652300098
Pages (from-to)E255
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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