September 6, 2013

Provided by PLoS ONE

Research Article

Kathleen B. Mihalik, Dino A. Feigelstock



While ribavirin mono-therapy regimens have minimal effect on patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, they can be efficacious when combined with interferon. Clinical studies show that interferon-free combination therapies containing ribavirin are also efficacious, suggesting that an interferon-free therapy could be adopted in the near future. However, generation of drug resistant mutants and cross resistance to other drugs could impair the efficacy of the treatment. Therefore, understanding the mechanism of HCV resistance to ribavirin and cross resistance to other antiviral drugs could be of major importance.


We tested the ability of a J6/JFH1 derived HCV ribavirin resistant mutant to grow in tissue cultured Huh7D cells in the presence of the mutagen 5-Fluorouracil and the nucleoside analog 2′-C-Methylcytidine. Virus replication was assessed by detecting HCV antigens by immunofluorescence and by titrating virus present in the supernatants. Recovered viruses were amplified by RT-PCR and sequenced.


The sensitivity of HCV-RR relative to parental J6/JFH1 to the tested drugs varied. HCV-RR was more resistant than J6/JFH1 to 5-Fluorouracil but was not more resistant than J6/JFH1 to 2′-C-Methylcytidine. Growth of HCV-RR in 5-Fluorouracil allowed the selection of an HCV-RR derived mutant resistant to 5-Fluorouracil (HCV-5FU). HCV-5FU grows to moderate levels in the presence of high concentrations of 5-Fluorouracil and to parental levels in the absence of the drug. Sequence of its genome shows that HCV-5FU accumulated multiple synonymous and non-synonymous mutations.


These results indicate that determinants of resistance to ribavirin could also confer resistance to other anti-HCV drugs, shedding light toward understanding the mechanism of action of ribavirin and highlighting the importance of combination drug selection for HCV treatment. The results also show that it is possible to select a 5-Fluorouracil HCV resistant mutant that replicates to levels similar to parental virus when grown in the absence of 5-Fluorouracil.

Citation: Mihalik KB, Feigelstock DA (2013) Sensitivity of a Ribavirin Resistant Mutant of Hepatitis C Virus to Other Antiviral Drugs. PLoS ONE 8(9): e74027. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074027

Editor: Hak Hotta, Kobe University, Japan

Received: April 19, 2013; Accepted: July 26, 2013; Published: September 5, 2013

This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

Funding: This work was supported by internal funding from the Food and Drug Administration. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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