When chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections are complicated by acquisition of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), liver disease appears to accelerate and serum levels of HCV RNA may rise. We hypothesized that HIV might affect the HCV quasispecies by decreasing both complexity (if HIV-induced immunosuppression lessens pressure for selecting HCV substitutions) and the ratio of nonsynonymous (dN) to synonymous (dS) substitutions, because dN may be lower (if there is less selective pressure). To test this hypothesis, we studied the evolution of HCV sequences in 10 persons with chronic HCV infection who seroconverted to HIV and, over the next 3 years, had slow or rapid progression of HIV-associated disease. From each subject, four serum specimens were selected with reference to HIV seroconversion: (i) more than 2 years prior, (ii) less than 2 years prior, (iii) less than 2 years after, and (iv) more than 2 years after. The HCV quasispecies in these specimens was characterized by generating clones containing 1 kb of cDNA that spanned the E1 gene and the E2 hypervariable region 1 (HVR1), followed by analysis of clonal frequencies (via electrophoretic migration) and nucleotide sequences. We examined 1,320 cDNA clones (33 per time point) and 287 sequences (median of 7 per time point). We observed a trend toward lower dN/dS after HIV seroconversion in 7 of 10 subjects and lower dN/dS in those with rapid HIV disease progression. However, the magnitude of these differences was small. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that HIV infection alters the HCV quasispecies, but the number of subjects and observation time may be too low to characterize the full effect.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science