An ORF1-rearranged hepatitis E virus derived from a chronically infected patient efficiently replicates in cell culture

Johne, R.; Reetz, J.; Ulrich, Rainer G. GND; Machnowska, P.; Sachsenröder, J.; Nickel, P.; Hofmann, J.

Hepatitis E is an increasingly reported disease in industrialized countries. Studies on the replication cycle of hepatitis E virus (HEV) are hampered due to the lack of efficient and robust cell culture systems for this virus. We describe the successful isolation of HEV derived from a chronically infected kidney transplant patient held under immunosuppressive therapy. Inoculation of serum sample 47832 onto the human lung carcinoma cell line A549 resulted in the replication of the virus as shown by RT-qPCR. This novel human-derived HEV strain is closely related to a wild boar-derived genotype 3 strain, which did not replicate in A549 cells. It carries a 186 nucleotide insertion in the hypervariable ORF1-region, derived from two parts of its ORF1. By passaging of the infected cells, a cell line continuously producing HEV particles was generated as demonstrated by RT-qPCR, immuno-electron microscopy, density gradient centrifugation and immunohistochemistry. Replication of the produced virus was demonstrated after its inoculation onto fresh A549 cells and two consecutive passages, whereas heating at 65 °C for 2 min abolished its infectivity. Several point mutations scattered along the whole genome were present in the HEV strain from the second passage; however, the ORF1 insertion was still present. Previously, cell culture isolation of two other HEV strains carrying insertions in their hypervariable regions, but originating from human ribosomal protein genes, has been described. The findings may indicate that cell culture adaptation of is mostly dependent on the length and position of the insertion, rather than from the sequence itself.

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Johne, R. / Reetz, J. / Ulrich, Rainer G. / et al: An ORF1-rearranged hepatitis E virus derived from a chronically infected patient efficiently replicates in cell culture. 2013.

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