Sequence analysis of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) core gene suggests the core protein as an appropriate target for HCV vaccine strategies

Y. HitOmi, W. M. McDonnell, A. A. Killeen, F. K. Askari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Summary. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major health problem with a prevalence of 1% in the United States population, and a significant percentage of infected patients progress to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Interferon therapy has demonstrated that the immune system can be modulated to alter the acute course of the disease, but long‐term treatments remain elusive. Prevention of hepatitis C infection is therefore an important strategy to mitigate the impact of this disease. Initial attempts at vaccination have focused on recombinant envelope vaccines, which have shown an ability to protect against very low titre challenges of HCV in chimps. The need for vaccines capable of protecting against higher titre challenges has led to the search for alternative vaccine strategies. The most highly conserved structural protein in the HCV genome is the core protein, and vaccine strategies targeting the core protein have been proposed to increase vaccine efficacy. The variability of HCV core sequences and genotypes in the Ann Arbor patient population are not known, and the present study was undertaken to assess the theoretical feasibility of developing a HCV core vaccine by excluding promiscuous core (C) gene variability as a mechanism of vaccine failure. Results of nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequence analysis from 13 of 14 patients studied reveal a 93% nucleotide and 96.4% amino acid core sequence homology in the C gene regions studied. Genotype analysis revealed four of 14 to be type 1a and nine of 14 to be type 1b with one infection not being sufficiently characterized to determine genotype. These results demonstrate a sufficiently high degree of conservation of HCV core sequences in our patient population to permit design of a vaccine directed against core protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-241
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Viral Hepatitis
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1995


  • chronic hepatitis
  • cytotoxic immunity
  • nucleoprotein
  • viral hepatitis


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