BACKGROUND & AIMS: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) therapy will benefit from the preclinical evaluation of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) agents in infectious culture systems that test the effects on different virus genotypes. We developed HCV recombinants comprising the 5' untranslated region-NS5A (5-5A) from genotypes 1-6 and 2a(JFH1) NS5B-3' untranslated region, and tested the effects of NS3 protease and NS5A inhibitors on these recombinants. METHODS: The HCV 5-5A recombinants with previously identified mutations in the NS3-helicase (F1464L), NS4A (A1672S), and NS5B (D2979G) were adapted and improved, by incorporating additional recovered mutations that increased their propagation in Huh7.5 cells. Concentration-response profiles were determined for each DAA agent in replicate infected Huh7.5 cells. RESULTS: Developed efficient 1a(H77), 1a(TN), 3a(S52), 4a(ED43), 5a(SA13), and 6a(HK6a) 5-5A recombinants did not require mutations after viral passage in the NS3 protease or NS5A domain-I regions targeted by the drugs. They were inhibited in a concentration-dependent manner by the NS3 protease inhibitors telaprevir, boceprevir, asunaprevir, simeprevir, vaniprevir, faldaprevir, and MK-5172 and by the NS5A inhibitor daclatasvir. The 1a(TN) 5-5A and JFH1-independent full-length viruses had similar levels of sensitivity to the DAA agents, validating the 5-5A recombinants as surrogates for full-length viruses in DAA testing. Compared with the 1a(TN) full-length virus, the 3a(S52) 5-5A recombinant was highly resistant to all protease inhibitors, and the 4a(ED43) recombinant was highly resistant to telaprevir and boceprevir, but most sensitive to other protease inhibitors. Compared with other protease inhibitors, MK-5172 had exceptional potency against all HCV genotypes. The NS5A inhibitor daclatasvir had the highest potency observed, but with genotype-dependent activity. CONCLUSIONS: The mutations F1464L, A1672S, and D2979G permitted the development of efficient HCV recombinants comprising genotype-specific 5' untranslated region-NS5A (5-5A), which include the natural NS3 protease and NS5A domain-I drug targets. The robust replication of adapted 5-5A recombinants allowed for direct comparison of NS3 protease and NS5A inhibitors against HCV strains of genotypes 1-6.
Gastroenterology, 2014, Vol 146, Issue 3, p. 812-821