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1.  Precore Stop Mutant in HBeAg-Positive Patients with Chronic Hepatitis B: Clinical Characteristics and Correlation with the Course of HBeAg-to-Anti-HBe Seroconversion 
This study aimed to investigate the ratios of precore stop mutant (codon 28; TGG to TAG) to total viremia in 53 HBeAg-positive patients with chronic hepatitis B by amplification-created restriction site assays along the course of HBeAg-to-anti-HBe seroconversion. At baseline, 11% had exclusive wild-type hepatitis B virus (HBV), 15% had exclusively precore mutant, and 74% had mixed viral strains. Precore mutant ratios correlated little with age, sex, or HBV DNA levels (all P > 0.1), but correlated modestly with alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels (P = 0.05). The intervals from presentation to anti-HBe seroconversion correlated significantly with ALT and precore mutant ratios in univariate analysis but with only precore mutant ratios in multivariate analysis (P = 0.003). Precore mutant ratios at baseline were significantly higher (P < 0.001) in six patients with persistent high viremia and ALT elevation after anti-HBe seroconversion (group 1) than in 47 with remission (group 2). All group 1 patients had exclusive precore mutant after anti-HBe seroconversion, as did only 14 (30%) of the group 2 patients (P = 0.003). Among group 2 patients, precore mutant ratios at baseline or after anti-HBe seroconversion showed no significant difference between 34 patients with sustained remission and 13 with relapse. Cirrhosis developed in 50% (5 of 10) of patients with precore mutant ratios >50% at baseline but only in 12% (5 of 43) of those with precore mutant ratios of <50% at baseline (P < 0.05). In conclusion, precore mutant of variable ratios was frequently detected in HBeAg-positive patients with chronic hepatitis B. Precore mutant ratios tended to correlate with ALT levels and anti-HBe seroconversion, but high precore mutant ratios were associated with persistent hepatitis after anti-HBe seroconversion and increased risk of cirrhosis.
doi:10.1128/JCM.40.1.16-21.2002
PMCID: PMC120083  PMID: 11773086
2.  Enhanced replication of a hepatitis B virus mutant associated with an epidemic of fulminant hepatitis. 
Journal of Virology  1994;68(3):1651-1659.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) mutants unable to synthesize HBV e antigen have been described in association with fulminant hepatitis. We have cloned and sequenced the entire viral genome of an HBV strain associated with an epidemic of fulminant hepatitis. This strain contained, in addition to two G-to-A mutations in the precore region (nucleotides 1898 and 1901), numerous other mutations in conserved nucleotide positions resulting in significant amino acid substitutions in HBV gene products. We introduced either or both of the two G-to-A mutations into wild-type HBV by oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis and generated replication-competent constructs of these mutants as well as the fulminant strain. Viral antigen synthesis, transcription, and replication were analyzed after transfection into human hepatoma cells. All viral constructs produced and secreted similar levels of envelope proteins (HBV surface antigen). Analysis of cellular lysate for core-specific immunoreactivity demonstrated a much higher level of core-associated antigens in cells transfected with the fulminant strain. While cells transfected with mutant and wild-type HBV DNAs synthesized similar levels of viral RNAs, the fulminant strain directed the synthesis of a much higher level of core-associated replicative intermediates (as well as virion particles) than the wild type and mutants with either or both of the precore mutations. Increase in the encapsidation of pregenomic RNA into core particles likely the basis for the enhanced replication associated with the fulminant strain. Our study suggests that an HBV mutant with enhanced viral replication may be important in the pathogenesis of fulminant hepatic failure, and mutations other than the precore mutations may be responsible for this variant behavior.
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PMCID: PMC236623  PMID: 8107226
3.  Strong Association between Genotype F and Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) e Antigen-Negative Variants among HBV-Infected Argentinean Blood Donors 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(11):5015-5021.
A number of reports have indicated an increased risk of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in hepatitis B virus (HBV)-infected individuals carrying HBV e antigen (HBeAg)-negative variants. Although distinct core promoter and precore mutations distributed according to geographical locality and viral genotype have been reported, epidemiological data from South America are still scarce. The prevalences of HBV genotypes and core promoter and precore polymorphisms in 75 HBeAg-negative Argentinean blood donors were surveyed. The observed frequencies of HBV genotypes were 64.0% for genotype F, 17.3% each for genotypes A and D, and 1.3% for genotype C. Genotype F strains were widely distributed and significantly more prevalent in the northern region of the country (P < 0.001). An overall high proportion of a stop codon mutation (UAG) at precore codon 28 (66.7%) was observed. Wild-type codon 28 (UGG) was present in 29.3% of the samples, and the remaining 4.0% of samples had mixed variants. The combination of A at nucleotide (nt) 1762 and G at nt 1764 of the core promoter was found in 58.7% of the samples. The variant profiles—T at nt 1762 and A at nt 1764 or A at nt 1762 and A at nt 1764—were detected in 28.0 and 1.3% of the samples, respectively. The observed core promoter polymorphisms could not be related to the ratio of HBeAg to anti-HBeAg antibody, HBV genotype, or precore codon 28 status. Nevertheless, a clear association of genotype F and a precore stop codon mutation was found (P < 0.05). In conclusion, HBV genotype F and mutant codon 28 strains predominated and were strongly associated in a geographically broad Argentinean blood donor population.
doi:10.1128/JCM.42.11.5015-5021.2004
PMCID: PMC525202  PMID: 15528689
4.  Clinical and Virological Aspects of Blood Donors Infected with Hepatitis B Virus Genotypes B and C 
Pathogenic and therapeutic differences among hepatitis B virus (HBV) genotypes have been documented. However, the association of virological characteristics with clinical differences among HBV genotypes remains unclear. We therefore studied the clinical and virological characteristics of Taiwanese volunteer blood donors infected with HBV genotypes B and C. HBV genotypes were determined in 300 candidate blood donors positive for HBV surface antigen (HBsAg), and sequences of the precore gene of the HBV genome were determined in 50 HBV e antigen (HBeAg)-positive and 50 HBeAg-negative blood donors. Of 300 HBsAg-positive blood donors, 10% had elevated serum aminotransferase levels and 27% were positive for HBeAg. HBV genotype distribution in 264 viremic carriers was as follows: B, 221 (83.7%); C, 39 (14.8%); F, 1 (0.4%); and mixed infection, 3 (1.1%). Blood donors with genotype C infection tended to have a higher frequency of HBeAg positivity and a higher serum HBV DNA level than those with genotype B infection. The frequency of precore stop codon mutation was significantly higher in HBeAg-negative blood donors than HBeAg-positive ones, irrespective of HBV genotypes. Meanwhile, only 5% of blood donors with genotype C infection had C-1858 strains. In conclusion, mixed infection of HBV genotypes indeed occurs, and genotype C has a higher serum HBV DNA level than genotype B. Precore stop codon mutation is common in HBeAg-negative HBV carriers, irrespective of HBV genotypes. In contrast, precore C-1858 strains are rarely identified in Taiwanese HBV genotype C.
doi:10.1128/JCM.40.1.22-25.2002
PMCID: PMC120125  PMID: 11773087
5.  Quantification of complex precore mutations of hepatitis B virus by SimpleProbe real time PCR and dual melting analysis 
Background
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) precore G1896A mutation is associated with Hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) seroconversion. This mutation and the adjacent G1899A mutation also appear to associate with increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. Quantitative mutant dynamics may help determine the potential of these mutants as clinical biomarkers. However, a reliable method to quantify either mutant is not available, partly because the viral genome has polymorphisms in general and the precore mutations are complex.
Objectives
(1) To develop a reliable and ultrasensitive assay for the quantification of HBV G1896A and/or G1899A mutants. (2) To obtain preliminary data on the quantities of the precore mutants in patients.
Study Design
A SimpleProbe real time PCR assay was developed to quantify the HBV precore mutants. Dual melting analysis and a primer-probe partial overlap approach were used to increase detection accuracy. A wild-type selective PCR blocker was also developed to increase mutant detection sensitivity.
Results
The assay correctly identified the precore sequence from all 62 patient samples analyzed. More than 97% of precore sequences in the GenBank can be recognized. Mutant detection sensitivity reached 0.001% using a wild type-selective PCR blocker. At least one precore mutant can be detected from all 20 HBeAg-positive individuals who were negative for precore mutations by DNA sequencing.
Conclusions
The reliability of this ultrasensitive mutation quantification assay was demonstrated. The same approaches may be useful for the detection of other clinically significant mutations. Evolution of the precore mutants warrants further studies.
doi:10.1016/j.jcv.2011.05.020
PMCID: PMC3133867  PMID: 21665530
mutation; HBV; precore; quantification; SimpleProbe; qPCR
6.  Complete hepatitis B virus genome analysis in HBsAg positive mothers and their infants with fulminant hepatitis B 
BMC Gastroenterology  2004;4:11.
Background
After perinatal transmission of hepatitis B virus, infants of anti-HBe positive HBsAg carrier mothers may develop fulminant hepatitis B. Previously it has been suggested, that fulminant hepatitis B in adults was associated with specific mutations in the HBV-genome. The aim of this study was to investigate, whether specific viral variants are associated with fulminant hepatitis B in young infants.
Methods
The complete HBV-genomes of five mothers and their infants with fulminant hepatitis were isolated from the sera, amplified and directly sequenced.
Results
Between 6 and 43 base pair exchanges between the HBV genomes of the infants and their mothers were identified. The mutations spread over the entire virus genome. Nucleotide exchanges in the basic core promotor and precore region were identified in all cases. A heterogeneous virus population was detected in four mothers.
Conclusions
Many new mutations were proved to emerge during fulminant hepatitis B in infants, who had been perinatally infected. HBeAg negative variants were the predominant population in all children, whereas these mutants could only be detected as subpopulations in four mothers. The data suggest that the selection of a specific HBeAg negative viral strain may be associated with the development of fulminant hepatitis B in children.
doi:10.1186/1471-230X-4-11
PMCID: PMC425580  PMID: 15186503
7.  Genetic variability in the precore and core promoter regions of hepatitis B virus strains in Karachi 
BMC Gastroenterology  2006;6:20.
Background
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) genotypes have distinct geographic distribution. Moreover, much genetic variability has been described in the precore (PC) and basal core promoter (BCP) regions of the HBV genome. The local prevalence of HBV genotypes and mutations has not been well studied. The aim of the present study is to determine the prevalence of HBV genotypes and mutations in the PC and BCP region in HBV strains in Karachi.
Methods
A total of 109 chronic hepatitis B patients with detectable HBV DNA by a PCR assay were enrolled in the study. Sera were tested for HBeAg, anti-HBe antibody and liver profile. HBV genotypes and mutations in the PC and BCP regions were detected by INNO-LiPA line-probe assays.
Results
Of the 109 patients investigated, 38 (35%) were HBeAg positive while 71 (65%) were HBeAg negative. Genotype D was present in 100% of the patients. Two patients had co-infection with genotype A. There was no significant difference in the baseline characteristics, mean ALT levels, and presence of clinical cirrhosis in patients with HBeAg positive or negative strains with or without PC and BCP mutations. Of the 38 HBeAg positive patients, 9 (24%) had PC and BCP mutations. In the HBeAg negative patient group, mutations were detected in 44 (62%) of the strains investigated. More than one mutation was common, seen in 26 (37%) patients with HBeAg negative disease and 6 (16%) patients with HBeAg positive disease. Twelve (17%) HBeAg negative patients had dual T1762 and A1764 mutations. None of the HBeAg positive patients had T1762 mutation. Mutations were undetectable in 27 (38%) of patients with HBeAg negative disease.
Conclusion
Our study shows that type D is the main HBV genotype in Karachi, Pakistan. Significant numbers of patients infected with this genotype have PC and BCP variants. Mutations at more than one site are common. Patients harboring these mutants do not differ significantly in their clinical presentation from patients having wild type infection.
doi:10.1186/1471-230X-6-20
PMCID: PMC1544342  PMID: 16863587
8.  In Vitro Replication Phenotype of a Novel (−1G) Hepatitis B Virus Variant Associated With HIV Co-Infection 
Journal of medical virology  2012;84(8):1166-1176.
The −1G mutant HBV is more prevalent in individuals co-infected with HIV/HBV than in individuals infected with HBV alone and in some cases is the dominant virus in circulation. This mutant is created by the deletion of a dGMP (−1G) from the guanine rich homopolymer sequence located at nts 2,085–2,090 (numbering from EcoRI site as position 1) in the HBV core gene. This deletion causes a frameshift generating a premature stop codon at 64Asn in the HBV core gene (codon 93 in the precore gene), that truncates the precore protein, precursor of the secreted hepatitis B “e” antigen (HBeAg), and the core protein which forms the viral nucleocapsid. However, the replication phenotype of the −1G mutant HBV is unknown. An in vitro cell culture model in which hepatoma cells were transiently transfected with infectious cDNAs was used to show that the −1G mutant HBV is incapable of autonomous replication and, as expected, replication was restored to wild-type (wt) levels by supplying HBV core protein in trans. Although the −1G mutation had no deleterious effect on intracellular HBV-DNA levels, high levels of −1G mutant HBV relative to wt HBV reduced virus secretion and HBeAg secretion relative to empty vector controls. Importantly, the −1G mutant HBV also caused intracellular retention of truncated precore protein in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Golgi apparatus. Together, these effects may be contributing to the increased pathology observed in the setting of HIV/HBV co-infection.
doi:10.1002/jmv.23328
PMCID: PMC3538154  PMID: 22711344
HBV; HIV; co-infection; precore; HBeAg; virus replication; ER stress
9.  Hepatitis B Virus Gene Mutations in Liver Diseases: A Report from New Delhi 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39028.
Objectives
The study was designed to characterize the surface, core promoter, precore/core region sequences for the presence of mutations in hepatitis B virus (HBV) associated with different liver diseases.
Methods
567 HBV associated patients with different liver diseases were enrolled in this study. All samples were analyzed for HBV surface, core promoter, precore/core region mutations and genotypes using PCR and direct sequencing.
Results
HBV genotype D (72.8%) was the predominant type followed by genotype A (27.2%). The serum viral load of HBV was highest in HBsAg carriers group and lowest in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. 17.9% patients with cirrhosis and 24.6% hepatocellular carcinoma cases were ADV-resistant with rtA181T/V mutations in the S-gene. A1896T was found more frequently in fulminant hepatic failure compared to acute viral hepatitis patients (p = 0.038). T1753V mutation was significantly higher in patients with cirrhosis of liver (34.6%) than in chronic hepatitis (18.9%) and hepatocellular carcinoma patients (21.2%; p = 0.001). T1762/A1764 mutation was observed in all the groups. C1914G core gene mutation was associated with the hepatocellular carcinoma (32.2%) compared to other groups. HBV genotype D predominated in comparison to genotype A. An increased frequency of precore mutation and BCP double mutations amongst the population studied was also observed.
Conclusion
Mutations such as T1762/A1764, T1753V and C1914G were usually associated with advanced forms of liver disease and had an increased risk of HCC. The nucleotide variability in the basal core promoter and precore regions possibly plays a role in the progression of HBV disease. Prospective studies on the sequence variations of the preC/C region of the HBV genome and the molecular mechanisms in relation to progression of liver disease would aid in better understanding of the biological significance of HBV strains in India.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039028
PMCID: PMC3375258  PMID: 22720023
10.  Basal Core Promoter and Precore Mutations in the Hepatitis B Virus Genome Enhance Replication Efficacy of Lamivudine-Resistant Mutants 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(16):8524-8535.
During chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, mutations in the precore (PC) or basal core promoter (BCP) region affecting HBV e antigen (HBeAg) expression occur commonly and represent the predominant virus species in patients with HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B. The PC mutation (G1896A+C1858T) creates a translational stop codon resulting in absent HBeAg expression, whereas BCP mutations (A1762T/G1764A) reduce HBeAg expression by transcriptional mechanisms. Treatment of chronic HBV infection with lamivudine (LMV) often selects drug-resistant strains with single (rtM204I) or double (rtL180M+rtM204V) point mutations in the YMDD motif of HBV reverse transcriptase. We cloned replication-competent HBV vectors (genotype A, adw2) combining mutations in the core (wild type [wt], PC, and BCP) and polymerase gene (wt, rtM204I, and rtL180M/M204V) and analyzed virus replication and drug sensitivity in vitro. Resistance to LMV (rtM204I/rtL180M+rtM204V) was accompanied by a reduced replication efficacy as evidenced by reduced pregenomic RNA, encapsidated progeny DNA, polymerase activity, and virion release. PC mutations alone did not alter virus replication but restored replication efficacy of the LMV-resistant mutants without affecting drug resistance. BCP mutants had higher replication capacities than did the wt, also in combination with LMV resistance mutations. All nine HBV constructs showed similar sensitivities to adefovir. In conclusion, BCP-PC mutations directly impact the replication capacity of LMV-resistant mutants. PC mutations compensated for replication inefficiency of LMV-resistant mutants, whereas BCP mutations increased viral replication levels to above the wt baseline values, even in LMV-resistant mutants, without affecting drug sensitivity in vitro. Adefovir may be an effective treatment when combinations of core and polymerase mutations occur.
doi:10.1128/JVI.78.16.8524-8535.2004
PMCID: PMC479060  PMID: 15280461
11.  Clinical relevance of mutations in the precore genome of the hepatitis B virus. 
Gut  1995;37(4):568-573.
A stop codon in the precore genome of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) in anti-HBe positive HBV carriers may be associated with a more progressive form of HBV infection. Earlier studies, however, were mainly performed in patients from the Mediterranean area who had severe infection. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of precore mutants in an unselected population living in northern Europe. Twenty of 42 of these patients are infected predominantly with a virus strain, which has the typical stop codon in the precore genome, characterised by a mutation at base 83. In six patients there was an additional G to A mutation at base 86 of the precore genome. Statistical analysis showed no difference between the patients with or without a stop codon in the precore genome. When patients with a double mutation at base 83 and 86 of the precore genome were compared with the other anti-HBe positive HBV carriers, however, the corresponding clinical data were worse. Therefore we suggest, that it is not the stop codon in the precore gene itself, but the occurrence of a double mutation at bases 83 and 86, which is associated with a more severe course of disease in anti-HBe positive HBV carriers.
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PMCID: PMC1382912  PMID: 7489947
12.  Hepatitis B Virus e Antigen Variants 
More than 300 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV). Considering the very short generation time for a virus, and the high error rate associated with the reverse transcription step of HBV replication, decades of HBV infection are probably equivalent to million years of human evolution. The most important selective force during the natural course of HBV infection appears to be the immune response. The development of anti-HBe antibody in hepatitis B patients usually correlates with reduction of HBV viremia. As a consequence, escape mutants of anti-HBe are selected. The core promoter mutants express less HBe antigen (HBeAg) through transcriptional down regulation, while precore mutants express truncated products. We recently identified additional mutations that modulate HBeAg translation initiation, proteolytic cleavage, and secondary structure maintenance through a disulfide bond. The core promoter mutants have been associated with the development of fulminant hepatitis during acute infection and liver cancer during chronic infection. Consistent with their enhanced pathogenicity, core promoter mutants were found to replicate at up to 10-fold higher levels in transfected human hepatoma cells than the wild-type virus. Moreover, some core promoter mutants are impaired in virion secretion due to missense mutations in the envelope gene. These virological properties may help explain enhanced pathogenicity of core promoter mutants in vivo.
PMCID: PMC1142218  PMID: 15968333
Hepatitis B virus; HBeAg; naturally occurring mutations; immune escape; replication; secretion
13.  Phylogenetic, Virological, and Clinical Characteristics of Genotype C Hepatitis B Virus with TCC at Codon 15 of the Precore Region 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2006;44(3):681-687.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) with T-1856 of the precore region is always associated with C-1858 (i.e., TCC at nucleotides 1856 to 1858), and it is reported only in genotype C HBV isolates. We aimed to investigate the phylogenetic, virological, and clinical characteristics of HBV isolates bearing TCC at nucleotides 1856 to 1858. We have previously reported on the presence of two major subgroups in genotype C HBV, namely, HBV genotype Cs (Southeast Asia) and HBV genotype Ce (Far East). We have designed a novel 5′ nuclease technology based on the nucleotide polymorphism (C or A) at nucleotide 2733 to differentiate the two genotype C HBV subgroups. The mutations at the basal core promoter and precore regions were analyzed by direct sequencing. Among 214 genotype C HBV-infected patients, 31% had TCC, 37% had CCC, 3% had CTC, and 29% had CCT at nucleotides 1856 to 1858. All except one HBV strain with TCC at nucleotides 1856 to 1858 belonged to subgroup Cs, which has been reported only in Hong Kong; Guangzhou, China; and Vietnam. HBV with TCC at nucleotides 1856 to 1858 was associated with the G1898A mutation (64%). Patients infected with HBV harboring TCC had more liver cirrhosis than those infected with HBV harboring CCC (18% versus 5%; P = 0.008), and more of the patients infected with HBV harboring TCC were positive for HBeAg (58% versus 36%; P = 0.01) and had higher median alanine aminotransferase levels (65 IU/liter versus 49 IU/liter; P = 0.006); but similar proportions of patients infected with HBV harboring TCC and those infected with HBV harboring CCT had liver cirrhosis (18% versus 13%; P = 0.43). In summary, we report that HBV with TCC at nucleotides 1856 to 1858 of the precore region might represent a specific HBV strain associated with more aggressive liver disease than other genotype C HBV strains.
doi:10.1128/JCM.44.3.681-687.2006
PMCID: PMC1393116  PMID: 16517839
14.  Detection of hepatitis B pre-core mutant by allele specific polymerase chain reaction. 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  1992;45(8):689-692.
AIM: Development of a specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for detection of the pre-core, stop codon, mutant of hepatitis B virus (HBV). METHODS: PCR primers, specific at the 3'-end for nucleotide 1896 of either the pre-core, stop codon, mutant or wild type HBV, were synthesised using published sequence data. Positive control templates for both types of virus were synthesised by the PCR, incorporating sequences specific for each virus type at the appropriate position. These templates were used to optimise the specificity of the procedure. Formalin fixed, paraffin wax embedded human tissue from acute or fulminant HBV hepatitis from Hong Kong or Oxford was then investigated for presence of mutant or wild type virus. The HBV DNA was amplified from this tissue using a two step procedure, with an initial amplification phase followed by a second diagnostic phase on optimally diluted target DNA. RESULTS: Specific detection of mutant or wild type HBV was achieved. An important factor in determining specificity was the temperature of annealing, 70 degrees C proving to be highly specific. To overcome the inherent variation of target copy number in clinical samples and to provide an intrinsic positive control, it was important to generate and standardise the amount of target HBV used for the specific PCR. Two cases of fulminant hepatitis and four cases of acute hepatitis from Hong Kong, and one case of fulminant hepatitis from Oxford, contained only wild type HBV, with no evidence of a mutant virus. CONCLUSION: This method can be applied to FFPE tissues. It is rapid, non-radioactive, and specific for the stop codon mutation at nucleotide 1896 of HBV. Preliminary investigation of a small number of cases of fulminant hepatitis from Oxford and Hong Kong showed only wild type virus. The result differs from results published from Japan and Israel.
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PMCID: PMC495145  PMID: 1401178
15.  Unsuccessful therapy with adefovir and entecavir-tenofovir in a patient with chronic hepatitis B infection with previous resistance to lamivudine: a fourteen-year evolution of hepatitis B virus mutations 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:178.
Background
Complex mutants can be selected under sequential selective pressure by HBV therapy. To determine hepatitis B virus genomic evolution during antiviral therapy we characterized the HBV quasi-species in a patient who did no respond to therapy following lamivudine breakthrough for a period of 14 years.
Case Presentation
The polymerase and precore/core genes were amplified and sequenced at determined intervals in a period of 14 years. HBV viral load and HBeAg/Anti-HBe serological profiles as well as amino transferase levels were also measured. A mixture of lamivudine-resistant genotype A2 HBV strains harboring the rtM204V mutation coexisted in the patient following viral breakthrough to lamivudine. The L180M+M204V dominant mutant displayed strong lamivudine-resistance. As therapy was changed to adefovir, then to entecavir, and finally to entecavir-tenofovir the viral load showed fluctuations but lamivudine-resistant strains continued to be selected, with minor contributions to the HBV quasi-species composition of additional resistance-associated mutations. At the end of the 14-year follow up period, high viral loads were predominant, with viral strains harboring the lamivudine-resistance signature rtL180M+M204V. The precore/core frame A1762T and G1764A double mutation was detected before treatment and remaining in this condition during the entire follow-up. Specific entecavir and tenofovir primary resistance-associated mutations were not detected at any time. Plasma concentrations of tenofovir indicated adequate metabolism of the drug.
Conclusions
We report the selection of HBV mutants carrying well-defined primary resistance mutations that escaped lamivudine in a fourteen-year follow-up period. With the exception of tenofovir resistance mutations, subsequent unselected primary resistance mutations were detected as minor populations into the HBV quasispecies composition during adefovir or entecavir monotherapies. Although tenofovir is considered an appropriate therapeutic alternative for the treatment of entecavir-unresponsive patients, its use was not effective in the case reported here.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-178
PMCID: PMC3135534  PMID: 21696601
hepatitis B virus; lamivudine; resistance; tenofovir; entecavir
16.  Associations Between Hepatitis B Virus Genotype and Mutants and the Risk of Hepatocellular Carcinoma 
Background
The risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) increases with increasing level of hepatitis B virus (HBV) in serum (viral load). However, it is unclear whether genetic characteristics of HBV, including HBV genotype and specific genetic mutations, contribute to the risk of HCC. We examined the HCC risk associated with HBV genotypes and common variants in the precore and basal core promoter (BCP) regions.
Methods
From January 5, 1991, to December 21, 1992, baseline blood samples were collected from 2762 Taiwanese men and women who were seropositive for HBV surface antigen but had not been diagnosed with HCC; the samples were tested for HBV viral load by real-time polymerase chain reaction and genotyped by melting curve analysis. Participants who had a baseline serum HBV DNA level greater than 104 copies/mL (n = 1526) were tested for the precore G1896A and BCP A1762T/G1764A mutants by direct sequencing. Incident cases of HCC were ascertained through follow-up examinations and computerized linkage to the National Cancer Registry and death certification profiles. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to estimate the risk of HCC associated with HBV genotype and precore and BCP mutants after adjustment for other risk factors. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results
A total of 153 HCC cases occurred during 33 847 person-years of follow-up. The HCC incidence rates per 100 000 person-years for participants infected with HBV genotype B or C were 305.6 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 236.9 to 388.1) and 785.8 (95% CI = 626.8 to 972.9), respectively. Among participants with a baseline HBV DNA level of at least 104 copies/mL, HCC incidence per 100 000 person-years was higher for those with the precore G1896 (wild-type) variant than for those with the G1896A variant (955.5 [95% CI = 749.0 to 1201.4] vs 269.4 [95% CI = 172.6 to 400.9]) and for those with the BCP A1762T/G1764A double mutant than for those with BCP A1762/G1764 (wild-type) variant (1149.2 [95% CI = 872.6 to 1485.6] vs 358.7 [95% CI = 255.1 to 490.4]). The multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio of developing HCC was 1.76 (95% CI = 1.19 to 2.61) for genotype C vs genotype B, 0.34 (95% CI = 0.21 to 0.57) for precore G1896A vs wild type, and 1.73 (95% CI = 1.13 to 2.67) for BCP A1762T/G1764A vs wild type. Risk was highest among participants infected with genotype C HBV and wild type for the precore 1896 variant and mutant for the BCP 1762/1764 variant (adjusted hazard ratio = 2.99, 95% CI = 1.57 to 5.70, P < .001).
Conclusions
HBV genotype C and specific alleles of BCP and precore were associated with risk of HCC. These associations were independent of serum HBV DNA level.
doi:10.1093/jnci/djn243
PMCID: PMC2518166  PMID: 18695135
17.  Hepatitis B viruses with precore region defects prevail in persistently infected hosts along with seroconversion to the antibody against e antigen. 
Journal of Virology  1990;64(3):1298-1303.
The C gene of hepatitis B virus (HBV) codes for a nucleocapsid protein made of 183 amino acid residues and is preceded in phase by the precore (pre-C) region, encoding 29 residues. The pre-C-region product is required for the synthesis and secretion of hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg), which is made of the C-terminal 10 amino acid residues of the pre-C-region product and the N-terminal 149 residues of the C-gene product. HBV mutants with pre-C-region defects prevailed in the circulation of three asymptomatic carriers as they seroconverted from HBeAg to the corresponding antibody (anti-HBe), and these mutants finally replaced nondefective HBV. HBV DNA clones were propagated from sera of an additional 15 carriers with anti-HBe and sequenced for the pre-C region. Essentially all HBV DNA clones (56 of 57 [98%]) revealed mutations that prohibited the translation of a functional pre-C-region product. A point mutation from G to A at nucleotide 83, converting Trp-28 (TGG) to a stop codon (TAG), was by far the commonest and was observed in HBV DNA clones from 16 (89%) of 18 carriers seropositive for anti-HBe. In addition, there were point mutations involving ATG codon to abort the translation initiation of the pre-C region, as well as deletion and insertion to induce frameshifts. Such mutations leading to pre-C-region defects were rarely observed in persistently infected individuals positive for HBeAg or in patients with type B acute hepatitis after they had seroconverted to anti-HBe. These results would indicate a selection of pre-C-defective mutants in persistently infected hosts, along with seroconversion to anti-HBe, by immune elimination of hepatocytes harboring nondefective HBV with the expression of HBeAg.
PMCID: PMC249247  PMID: 2304145
18.  High Endemicity and Low Molecular Diversity of Hepatitis B Virus Infections in Pregnant Women in a Rural District of North Cameroon 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80346.
Background
A program, supported by the GEMHEP (Groupe d'étude Moléculaire des Hépatites), was established in 2007 in the sanitary district of Tokombéré, to prevent perinatal transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV). It comprises screening for HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) in all pregnant women and vaccinating the newborn if tests are positive.
Methods/Principal Findings
1276 women were enrolled in the study after providing informed consent. Demographic data and blood samples were available for 1267 of the enrolled patients. HBsAg was determined locally using a rapid test (Vikia HBsAg, Biomerieux). Tests for HBV and HDV virological markers (HBeAg, anti-HDV antibodies (Ab), HBV-DNA, HDV-RNA, HBV and HDV genotypes) were performed on the confirmed HBsAg-positive samples in the virology unit of the Angers University Hospital (France). HBsAg was found in 259 of the 1267 pregnant women (20.4%) between January 2009 and April 2010, of whom 59 were HBeAg-positive (22.7%) with high levels of HBV-DNA. Anti-HDV Ab were found in 19 (7.3%) of the HBsAg-positive women. The prevalence rates of HBsAg and HDV were not age-dependent whereas HBeAg carriers were statistically younger than non carriers. Basal core promoter (BCP) and precore (PC) mutations and genotypes were determined by sequencing. Of 120 amplified sequences, 119 belonged to HBV genotype E (HBV/E) and the 9 HDV strains belonged to HDV clade 1. In the PC region, 83/228 patients (36.4%) harbored a G1896A mutant or mixed phenotype virus. In the BCP region, the double mutation A1762T/G1764A and the G1757A substitution were detected respectively in 26/228 patients (11.4%) and 189/228 patients (82.8%).
Conclusions
Our results confirm the high prevalence and low molecular diversity of HBV in Far Northern Cameroon; more than 20% of the infected women were highly viremic, suggesting a high rate of HBV perinatal transmission and supporting the WHO recommendation to vaccinate at birth against hepatitis B.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080346
PMCID: PMC3827216  PMID: 24265811
19.  Close Monitoring of Hepatitis B Surface Antigen Levels Helps Classify Flares During Peginterferon Therapy and Predicts Treatment Response 
Host-induced flares are associated with presence of only wild-type hepatitis B virus (HBV) and result in decline and clearance of HBV DNA, hepatitis B e antigen, and hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). Monitoring of HBsAg levels during and after flares may help predict a favorable treatment outcome.
Background. Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) flares occur frequently during peginterferon (PEG-IFN) therapy. We related occurrence of flares to presence of precore (PC) and/or basal core promoter (BCP) mutants and studied kinetics of hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) and hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) levels during flares.
Methods. Fifty of 214 (23%) patients treated with PEG-IFN ± lamivudine for 52 weeks experienced flares. Flares were host-induced (ALT elevation followed by HBV DNA decline, n = 19), virus-induced (HBV DNA increase with subsequent ALT elevation, n = 17) or indeterminate (n = 14). Presence of wild-type (WT) or non-WT (detectable PC/BCP mutants) was studied by lineprobe assay.
Results. Fifty-eight percent of host-induced flares occurred in WT HBV patients, whereas 94% of virus-induced flares occurred in patients with PC and/or BCP mutants (P = .003). HBsAg loss was only achieved in patients with a host-induced flare, and WT patients with a host-induced flare cleared HBsAg in 64% of cases. Serum HBsAg levels declined after a host-induced flare, whereas virus-induced flares were accompanied by stable or increasing levels of HBsAg. Patients with a host-induced flare achieved a mean HBsAg reduction of 3.24 log IU/mL, compared with 0.25 log IU/mL in virus-induced flares (P < .001). Patients who achieved a decline in HBsAg of >0.5 log IU/mL within 4 weeks after the flare cleared HBsAg in 64% (7 of 11) of cases.
Conclusions. Host-induced flares are associated with WT virus and may result in decline and clearance of HBV DNA, HBeAg, and HBsAg. Monitoring of HBsAg levels during and after flares may help predict a favorable treatment outcome.
doi:10.1093/cid/cis859
PMCID: PMC3518882  PMID: 23042976
peginterferon; prediction of response; precore; basal core promoter; hepatitis B surface antigen
20.  Rapid and Sensitive Assays for Determination of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Genotypes and Detection of HBV Precore and Core Promoter Variants 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(8):3699-3705.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) genotypes may influence HBeAg seroconversion rates, mutational patterns in the precore (PC) and core promoter (CP) regions, severity of liver disease, and response to antiviral treatment. Development of rapid, simple, and standardized assays to detect viral genotypes and common mutations in the PC and CP regions can accelerate research on the clinical significance of these variants. We aim to assess the accuracy of a line probe assay in determining HBV genotypes and detecting HBV PC and CP variants. HBV genotypes in 701 patients and PC and CP variants in 600 patients with chronic HBV infection from China and the United States were studied using the INNO-LiPA assay. All but one (99.9%) sample were classified by the genotyping assay. All eight genotypes, i.e., A to H, were found. The INNO-LiPA genotyping assay results were completely concordant with those of sequencing. Using the INNO-LiPA PC assay, 99.8 and 94.7% samples were classifiable in the PC and CP regions, respectively. The PC assay results were completely concordant with those of sequencing in all samples that showed either wild-type or variant sequence. The line probe assay was more sensitive in detecting mixtures than was direct sequencing. By INNO-LiPA, only 50 and 27% of the samples, with mixed wild-type and variant sequence in the PC and CP region, respectively, showed mixed sequence by direct sequencing. INNO-LiPA is rapid, sensitive, and reliable—thus enabling accurate determination of HBV genotypes and detection of PC and CP variants in a large population of patients.
doi:10.1128/JCM.41.8.3699-3705.2003
PMCID: PMC179815  PMID: 12904378
21.  Investigation of DNA Sequence in the Basal Core Promoter, Precore, and Core Regions of Hepatitis B Virus from Tunisia Shows a Shift in Genotype Prevalence 
Hepatitis Monthly  2012;12(11):e6191.
Background
In this study, we evaluated the prevalence of the most common mutations occurring in Enhancer II (EnhII), Basal Core Promoter (BCP), Precore (PC), and Core (C) regions of hepatitis B virus (HBV) genome.
Objectives
We also investigated the correlation between HBV variants, their genotypes, and patients’ HBe antigen (HBeAg: soluble shape of the capsid antigen) status.
Patients and Methods
We retrieved viral DNA from 40 serum samples of Tunisian patients positive for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and HBV DNA, amplified the above mentioned regions using specific primers, and sequenced the corresponding PCR (polymerase chain reaction) products. For further analysis purpose, the patients were divided into two groups: Group1 including 34 HBeAg-negative patients and Group2 with 6 HBeAg-positive patients.
Results
Twenty-one patients (52.5%) showed PC G1896A mutation and 11 (27.5%) carried A1762T/G1764A double mutations. These mutations were more frequent in HBeAg-negative patients than that in HBeAg-positive ones. Indeed, 58.8% of patients bearing G1896A mutation were HBeAg-negative while 16.7% were positive. In patients bearing T1762/A1764 double mutation, 29.4% were positive and 16.7% were negative. In addition, the A1896 mutation was restricted to HBV isolates that had wild-type T1858, while C1858 was rather linked to the occurrence of T1762/A1764 mutation. Interestingly, this study revealed a high frequency of genotype E. This frequency was important as compared to that of genotype D known to be predominant in the country as delineated in previous studies.
Conclusions
Previous results supported and showed that HBV strains present in Tunisia belonging to genotype D and, to a lesser extent, to genotype E, were prone to mutations in BCP/ PC regions. This observation was more obvious in HBV isolates from asymptomatic chronic carriers (AsC). The high mutational rates observed in our study might result from a mechanism of viral escape that plays an important role in the loss of HBeAg.
doi:10.5812/hepatmon.6191
PMCID: PMC3549613  PMID: 23346148
Hepatitis B virus; Promoter Regions, Genetic; Mutations; Genotypes
22.  Virological pattern of hepatitis B infection in an HIV-positive man with fatal fulminant hepatitis B: a case report 
Introduction
There seem to be no published data concerning the clinical impact of populations of hepatitis B virus (HBV) in the hepatic and extrahepatic compartments of HIV-infected people with severe acute hepatitis.
Case presentation
A 26-year-old Caucasian man presenting to our hospital with clinical symptoms suggesting acute hepatitis was found to have an acute hepatitis B profile upon admission. He developed fatal fulminant hepatitis and was found to be heavily immunocompromised due to HIV-1 infection. He had a high plasma HBV and HIV load, and analysis of the partial pre-S1/pre-S2 domain showed the presence of mixed infection with D and F genotypes. Analysis of the point mutations within this region revealed the presence of HBV strains with amino acid substitutions at the immunodominant epitopes involved in B or T cell recognition. A homogeneous population of a pre-core mutant strain harbouring the A1896G and A1899G affecting HBeAg expression was invariably found in the liver tissue, plasma and peripheral blood mononuclear cells despite active HBeAg secretion; it was the dominant strain in the liver only, and was characterised by the presence of two point mutations in the direct repeat 1 domain involved in HBV replication activity. Taken together, these mutations are indicative of a highly replicative virus capable of evading immune responses.
Conclusion
This case report provides clinical evidence of a possible association between the rapid spread of highly replicative escape mutants and the development of fulminant hepatitis in a heavily immunocompromised patient. Virological surveillance of severe acute hepatitis B may be important in establishing an early treatment strategy involving antiviral drugs capable of preventing liver failure, especially in individuals for whom liver transplantation is not accepted as a standard indication.
doi:10.1186/1752-1947-3-110
PMCID: PMC2783051  PMID: 19946588
23.  Differential Impact of Immune Escape Mutations G145R and P120T on the Replication of Lamivudine-Resistant Hepatitis B Virus e Antigen-Positive and -Negative Strains▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;84(2):1026-1033.
Immune escape variants of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) represent an emerging clinical challenge, because they can be associated with vaccine escape, HBV reactivation, and failure of diagnostic tests. Recent data suggest a preferential selection of immune escape mutants in distinct peripheral blood leukocyte compartments of infected individuals. We therefore systematically analyzed the functional impact of the most prevalent immune escape variants, the sG145R and sP120T mutants, on the viral replication efficacy and antiviral drug susceptibility of common treatment-associated mutants with resistance to lamivudine (LAM) and/or HBeAg negativity. Replication-competent HBV strains with sG145R or sP120T and LAM resistance (rtM204I or rtL180M/rtM204V) were generated on an HBeAg-positive and an HBeAg-negative background with precore (PC) and basal core promoter (BCP) mutants. The sG145R mutation strongly reduced HBsAg levels and was able to fully restore the impaired replication of LAM-resistant HBV mutants to the levels of wild-type HBV, and PC or BCP mutations further enhanced viral replication. Although the sP120T substitution also impaired HBsAg secretion, it did not enhance the replication of LAM-resistant clones. However, the concomitant occurrence of HBeAg negativity (PC/BCP), sP120T, and LAM resistance resulted in the restoration of replication to levels of wild-type HBV. In all clones with combined immune escape and LAM resistance mutations, the nucleotide analogues adefovir and tenofovir remained effective in suppressing viral replication in vitro. These findings reveal the differential impact of immune escape variants on the replication and drug susceptibility of complex HBV mutants, supporting the need of close surveillance and treatment adjustment in response to the selection of distinct mutational patterns.
doi:10.1128/JVI.01796-09
PMCID: PMC2798356  PMID: 19889778
24.  Clinical and Serological Variation between Patients Infected with Different Hepatitis B Virus Genotypes 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(12):5837-5841.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) has eight genotypes which have distinct geographical distributions. Studies comparing differences in the clinical outcomes of infections caused by strains with genotype-related variations in the HBV genome have largely compared genotypes B and C and genotypes A and D but not all four genotypes. The present study included 196 HBV-infected patients attending an infectious diseases outpatient clinic in Sweden. The age and geographic origin, liver function, HBeAg and anti-HBe status, and the presence or absence of HBV DNA were analyzed for each patient. HBV DNA was detected in 144 patients, and the HBV genotype and the core promoter and precore sequences were determined for the isolates from 101 of these patients. Among the patients who might be considered most likely to be nonviremic, namely, anti-HBe-positive HBV carriers with normal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels, 65% had detectable HBV DNA and were thus viremic. Among the viremic patients, HBeAg-positive patients were more likely to have elevated ALT levels than anti-HBe-positive patients. HBV genotypes A to F were represented in the study, and their distributions coincided accurately with the origin of the patient. A significantly higher number of genotype D-infected patients were anti-HBe positive and had elevated ALT levels (42% of genotype D-infected patients but 0% of patients infected with genotypes B and C). Genotype D strains with mutations in the core promoter and precore regions were significantly correlated with elevated ALT levels in the patients. The differences were not age related. Therefore, in this large-scale cross-sectional study, genotype D appears to be associated with more active disease.
doi:10.1128/JCM.42.12.5837-5841.2004
PMCID: PMC535251  PMID: 15583320
25.  Variability in the Precore and Core Promoter Regions of HBV Strains in Morocco: Characterization and Impact on Liver Disease Progression 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42891.
Background
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is one of the most common human pathogens that cause aggressive hepatitis and advanced liver disease (AdLD), including liver cirrhosis and Hepatocellular Carcinoma. The persistence of active HBV replication and liver damage after the loss of hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) has been frequently associated with mutations in the pre-core (pre-C) and core promoter (CP) regions of HBV genome that abolish or reduce HBeAg expression. The purpose of this study was to assess the prevalence of pre-C and CP mutations and their impact on the subsequent course of liver disease in Morocco.
Methods/Principal Findings
A cohort of 186 patients with HBeAg-negative chronic HBV infection was studied (81 inactive carriers, 69 with active chronic hepatitis, 36 with AdLD). Pre-C and CP mutations were analyzed by PCR-direct sequencing method. The pre-C stop codon G1896A mutation was the most frequent (83.9%) and was associated with a lower risk of AdLD development (OR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.15–1.04; p = 0.04). HBV-DNA levels in patients with G1896A were not significantly different from the other patients carrying wild-type strains (p = 0.84). CP mutations C1653T, T1753V, A1762T/G1764A, and C1766T/T1768A were associated with higher HBV-DNA level and increased liver disease severity. Multiple logistic regression analysis showed that older age (≥40 years), male sex, high viral load (>4.3 log10 IU/mL) and CP mutations C1653T, T1753V, A1762T/G1764A, and C1766T/T1768A were independent risk factors for AdLD development. Combination of these mutations was significantly associated with AdLD (OR, 7.52; 95% CI, 4.8–8; p<0.0001).
Conclusions
This study shows for the first time the association of HBV viral load and CP mutations with the severity of liver disease in Moroccan HBV chronic carriers. The examination of CP mutations alone or in combination could be helpful for prediction of the clinical outcome.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042891
PMCID: PMC3419231  PMID: 22905181

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