Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has a linear positive-stranded RNA genome of ∼9,600 nucleotides in length and displays a high level of sequence diversity caused by high mutation rates and recombination. However, when we performed long distance reverse transcription-PCRs on HCV RNA isolated from serum of chronic HCV patients, not only full-length HCV genomes but also HCV RNAs which varied in size from 7,600 to 8,346 nucleotides and contained large in-frame deletions between El and NS2 were amplified. Carefully designed control experiments indicated that these deletion mutants are a bona fide natural RNA species, most likely packaged in virions. Moreover, deletion mutants were detected in sera of patients infected with different HCV genotypes. We observed that 7/37 (18.9%) of genotype 1, 5/43 (11.6%) of genotype 3, and 4/13 (30.7%) of genotype 6 samples contained HCV deletion mutant genomes. These observations further exemplify HCVs huge genetic diversity and warrant studies to explore their biological relevance. Copyright

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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.01059-07, hdl.handle.net/1765/35110
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Noppornpanth, S, Smits, S.L, Truong, X.L, Poovorawan, Y, Osterhaus, A.D.M.E, & Haagmans, B.L. (2007). Characterization of hepatitis C virus deletion mutants circulating in chronically infected patients. Journal of Virology, 81(22), 12496–12503. doi:10.1128/JVI.01059-07