Phenotypic characterization of a clinical HBV/G isolate relative to a co-infecting HBV/A strain and HBV/A/G recombinant strains

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Borlang, Jamie Ellen
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Hepatitis B virus genotype G (HBV/G) is a unique genotype of HBV which contains a 36-nucleotide insertion in the Core gene as well as 2 mutations that lead to stop codons in the Pre-Core coding region. Chronic infection with HBV/G is not known to occur without a co-infecting HBV genotype, suggesting that it is defective on its own. This study aims to look at the replication capacity of HBV/G, HBV/A, and HBV/A/G recombinant strains circulating in Canada and to determine the relationship between co-infecting strains. Four full-length HBV genomes were isolated from 2 different patients and transiently transfected into the HepG2 human hepatoma cell line for phenotypic analysis of each strain. HBV/G, HBV/A and HBV/A/G recombinant strains were isolated from Patient 1, while a different HBV/A/G recombinant strain was isolated from Patient 2. HBV replication capacity was measured using a quantitative real time PCR assay. Markers of replication, such as secreted HBsAg and HBeAg, intracellular core particles and replicative DNA intermediates were measured by ELISA, Western blot and Southern blot, respectively. HBV/G demonstrated a higher replicative capability, relative to its co-infecting strains, while both HBV/A/G strains had levels of secreted HBV DNA greater than HBV/A alone, suggesting a modulating effect due to recombination. Replication marker levels revealed possible reasons for a co-infection requirement during HBV/G infection such as HBeAg for chronicity. These observations demonstrate the potential interactions of HBV/G with its co-infecting HBV genotype and provide the first reported phenotypic analysis of a HBV recombinant.
Hepatitis B Virus, Genotype G, Replication, Recombinants