Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection can promote the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Published data implicate the HCV core gene in oncogenesis. We tested the hypothesis that core gene sequences from HCC patients differ from those of patients without cirrhosis/HCC.
Full-length HCV sequences from HCC patients and controls were obtained from the investigators and GenBank and compared to each other. A logistic regression model was developed to predict the HCC risk of individual point mutations and other sequence features. Mutations in partial sequences (bases 36–288) from HCC patients and controls were also analyzed. The first base of the AUG start codon was designated position 1.
A logistic regression model developed through analysis of full-length core gene sequences identified seven polymorphisms significantly associated with increased HCC risk (36G/C, 209A, 271U/C, 309A/C, 435A/C, 481A, 546A/C) and an interaction term (for 209A-271U/C) that had an odds ratio < 1.0. Three of these polymorphisms could be analyzed in the partial sequences. Two of them, 36G/C and 209A, were again associated with increased HCC risk, but 271U/C, was not. The odds ratio of 209A-271U/C was not significant.
HCV core genes from patients with and without HCC differ at several positions. Of interest, 209A has been associated with interferon resistance and HCC in previous studies. Our findings suggest that HCV core gene sequence data might provide useful information about HCC risk. Prospective investigation is needed to establish the temporal relationship between the appearance of the viral mutations and development of HCC.