Determining the cellular diversity of hepatitis C virus quasispecies by single-cell viral sequencing

McWilliam Leitch, E. C. and McLauchlan, J. (2013) Determining the cellular diversity of hepatitis C virus quasispecies by single-cell viral sequencing. Journal of Virology, 87(23), pp. 12648-12655. (doi: 10.1128/JVI.01602-13) (PMID:24049174) (PMCID:PMC3838117)

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Single-cell genomics is emerging as an important tool in cellular biology. We describe for the first time a system to investigate RNA virus quasispecies diversity at the cellular level utilizing hepatitis C virus (HCV) replicons. A high-fidelity nested reverse transcription (RT)-PCR assay was developed, and validation using control transcripts of known copy number indicated a detection limit of 3 copies of viral RNA/reaction. This system was used to determine the cellular diversity of subgenomic JFH-1 HCV replicons constitutively expressed in Huh7 cells. Each cell contained a unique quasispecies that was much less diverse than the quasispecies of the bulk cell population from which the single cells were derived, suggesting the occurrence of independent evolution at the cellular level. An assessment of the replicative fitness of the predominant single-cell quasispecies variants indicated a modest reduction in fitness compared to the wild type. Real-time RT-PCR methods capable of determining single-cell viral loads were developed and indicated an average of 113 copies of replicon RNA per cell, correlating with calculated RNA copy numbers in the bulk cell population. This study introduces a single-cell RNA viral-sequencing method with numerous potential applications to explore host-virus interactions during infection. HCV quasispecies diversity varied greatly between cells in vitro, suggesting different within-cell evolutionary pathways. Such divergent trajectories in vivo could have implications for the evolution and establishment of antiviral-resistant variants and host immune escape mutants.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Leitch, Dr Carol and McLauchlan, Professor John
Authors: McWilliam Leitch, E. C., and McLauchlan, J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Infection Immunity and Inflammation
Journal Name:Journal of Virology
Publisher:American Society for Microbiology
ISSN (Online):1098-5514

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
656341Virus-host interactions in hepatitis C virus infectionJohn MclauchlanMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12014/1MVLS III - CENTRE FOR VIRUS RESEARCH