BACKGROUND: The hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects nearly 3% of the World's population, causing severe liver disease in many. Standard of care therapy is currently pegylated interferon alpha and ribavirin (PegIFN/R), which is effective in less than half of those infected with the most common viral genotype. Two IL28B single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), rs8099917 and rs12979860, predict response to (PegIFN/R) therapy in treatment of HCV infection. These SNPs were identified in genome wide analyses using Illumina genotyping chips. In people of European ancestry, there are 6 common (more than 1%) haplotypes for IL28B, one tagged by the rs8099917 minor allele, four tagged by rs12979860.
METHODS: We used massively parallel sequencing of the IL28B and IL28A gene regions generated by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from pooled DNA samples from 100 responders and 99 non-responders to therapy, to identify common variants. Variants that had high odds ratios and were validated were then genotyped in a cohort of 905 responders and non-responders. Their predictive power was assessed, alone and in combination with HLA-C.
RESULTS: Only SNPs in the IL28B linkage disequilibrium block predicted drug response. Eighteen SNPs were identified with evidence for association with drug response, and with a high degree of confidence in the sequence call. We found that two SNPs, rs4803221 (homozygote minor allele positive predictive value (PPV) of 77%) and rs7248668 (PPV 78%), predicted failure to respond better than the current best, rs8099917 (PPV 73%) and rs12979860 (PPV 68%) in this cross-sectional cohort. The best SNPs tagged a single common haplotype, haplotype 2. Genotypes predicted lack of response better than alleles. However, combination of IL28B haplotype 2 carrier status with the HLA-C C2C2 genotype, which has previously been reported to improve prediction in combination with IL28B, provides the highest PPV (80%). The haplotypes present alternative putative transcription factor binding and methylation sites.
CONCLUSIONS: Massively parallel sequencing allowed identification and comparison of the best common SNPs for identifying treatment failure in therapy for HCV. SNPs tagging a single haplotype have the highest PPV, especially in combination with HLA-C. The functional basis for the association may be due to altered regulation of the gene. These approaches have utility in improving diagnostic testing and identifying causal haplotypes or SNPs.
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