The unique properties of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) JFH1 isolate have made it possible to produce and study HCV in an infectious cell culture system. However, relatively low virus titers restrict some of the uses of this system and preparing infectious chimeric reporter viruses have been difficult. In this study, we report cell culture-adapted mutations in wild-type JFH1 yielding higher titers of infectious particles of both JFH1 and chimeric JFH1 viruses carrying reporter genes. Sequencing analyses determined that ten of the sixteen nonsynonymous mutations were in the NS5A region. Individual viruses harboring specific adaptive mutations were prepared and studied. The mutations in the NS5A region, which included all three domains, were most effective in increasing infectious virus production. Insertion of two reporter genes in JFH1 without the adaptive mutations ablated the production of infectious HCV particles. However, the introduction of specific adaptive mutations in the NS5A region permitted reporter genes, Renilla luciferase (Rluc) and EGFP, to be introduced into JHF1 to produce chimeric HCV-NS5A-EGFP and HCV-NS5A-Rluc reporter viruses at relatively high titers of infectious virus. The quantity of hyperphosphorylated NS5A (p58) was decreased in the adapted JFH1 compared wild type JFH1 and is likely be involved in increased production of infectious virus based on previous studies of p58. The JFH1-derived mutant viruses and chimeric reporter viruses described here provide new tools for studying HCV biology, identifying HCV antivirals, and enable new ways of engineering additional infectious chimeric viruses.
Liu, S., Xiao, L., Nelson, C., & Hagedorn, C. (2012). A Cell Culture Adapted HCV JFH1 Variant That Increases Viral Titers and Permits the Production of High Titer Infectious Chimeric Reporter Viruses. PLoS ONE, 7(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0044965