Increased viral quasispecies evolution in HBeAg seroconverter patients treated with oral nucleoside therapy
Background & Aims: Increased viral diversity and evolution appear to be a pre-HBeAg-seroconversion feature in spontaneous and interferon-treated seroconverters. The aim of this study was to examine the viral evolution pattern in nucleoside analogue related HBeAg-seroconversion. Methods: This was a case control study consisting of ten lamivudine-treated HBeAg-seroconverters and ten lamivudine-treated non-seroconverters as matching controls. All patients in this study were followed as long as 6 years after starting lamivudine, and cases had three serum time points before HBeAg-seroconversion while controls had three matching serum time points. Nested PCR, cloning and sequencing of HBV precore/core gene were performed. Sequences were aligned with Clustal X 2.0. Phylogenetic trees were constructed and viral diversity, evolutionary rates and patterns of positive selection were evaluated. Results: After starting lamivudine treatment, HBV viral diversity increased in both seroconverters and non-seroconverters, but seroconverters showed a significantly higher level of viral diversity that persisted over time by 2.1-fold (p = 0.009). The increased viral diversity correlated with reduced HBV DNA levels (p <0.001). Lamivudine-treated seroconverters had significant reduced HBV DNA concurrent with increased viral diversity after starting treatment (p = 0.001, compared to non-seroconverters, and resembled those of interferon-seroconverters published previously). There was evidence of positive selection in seroconverters with significantly increased amino acid changes compared to non-seroconverters (p <0.001), occurring in recognized T-cell and B-cell epitopes. Conclusions: Lamivudine-treated HBeAg-seroconverters showed a higher viral diversity than non-seroconverters, and the pattern resembled that of interferon-treated seroconverters. The findings strengthen the evidence that increased viral diversity is strongly associated with HBeAg-seroconversion. © 2012 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Cheng, Y; Guindon, S; Rodrigo, A; Lim, SG
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