Neutralization and receptor use of infectious culture-derived rat hepacivirus as a model for HCV

Raphael Wolfisberg, Caroline E Thorselius, Eduardo Salinas, Elizabeth Elrod, Sheetal Trivedi, Louise Nielsen, Ulrik Fahnøe, Amit Kapoor, Arash Grakoui, Charles M Rice, Jens Bukh, Kenn Holmbeck, Troels K H Scheel


BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Lack of tractable immunocompetent animal models amenable to robust experimental challenge impedes vaccine efforts for HCV. Infection with rodent hepacivirus from Rattus norvegicus (RHV-rn1) in rats shares HCV-defining characteristics, including liver tropism, chronicity, and pathology. RHV in vitro cultivation would facilitate genetic studies on particle production, host factor interactions, and evaluation of antibody neutralization guiding HCV vaccine approaches.

APPROACH AND RESULTS: We report an infectious reverse genetic cell culture system for RHV-rn1 using highly permissive rat hepatoma cells and adaptive mutations in the E2, NS4B, and NS5A viral proteins. Cell culture-derived RHV-rn1 particles (RHVcc) share hallmark biophysical characteristics of HCV and are infectious in mice and rats. Culture adaptive mutations attenuated RHVcc in immunocompetent rats, and the mutations reverted following prolonged infection, but not in severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice, suggesting that adaptive immune pressure is a primary driver of reversion. Accordingly, sera from RHVcc-infected SCID mice or the early acute phase of immunocompetent mice and rats were infectious in culture. We further established an in vitro RHVcc neutralization assay, and observed neutralizing activity of rat sera specifically from the chronic phase of infection. Finally, we found that scavenger receptor class B type I promoted RHV-rn1 entry in vitro and in vivo.

CONCLUSIONS: The RHV-rn1 infectious cell culture system enables studies of humoral immune responses against hepacivirus infection. Moreover, recapitulation of the entire RHV-rn1 infectious cycle in cell culture will facilitate reverse genetic studies and the exploration of tropism and virus-host interactions.

TidsskriftHepatology (Baltimore, Md.)
Udgave nummer5
Sider (fra-til)1506-1519
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2022


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