Recombination of hepatitis D virus RNA sequences and its implications

Jaw Ching Wu, Tzen Yuh Chiang, Wei Kei Shine, Sheng Yung Wang, I. Jane Sheen, Yi Hsiang Huang, Wan Jr Syu

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Recombination between RNA sequences plays a role in the fast evolution of a few viruses. There has been no report on hepatitis D virus (HDV) recombination. In this study, we analyzed genetic recombination of HDV and its possible impact on evolution and clinical course. The aligned HDV sequences allowed us to construct a phylogenetic tree which supported the notion of distinct lineages of HDV. The tree was also used in the analysis of recombination using partial likelihoods assessed through optimization. Nine segments of the HDV genome with significant levels of genetic recombination were detected. Five segments were in the hypervariable region, and four were in the delta-antigen- coding region. None could be found in the well- conserved autocleavage region that is essential for replication. Recombination occurred both between and within types. The results of this study indicated that the remarkable variation in HDV genomic sequences, particularly in the hypervariable region, among different genotypes may at least partly result from multiple episodes of genetic recombination during evolution. Genetic recombination may play a significant role in increasing genetic diversity. Importantly, a genetic recombination (nt 1082- -1093) occurred in one of the immunogenic domains of hepatitis delta virus antigen recognized by human and woodchuck antibodies (amino acids 174-195). Genetic recombination also occurred at another segment between nt 1517 and 1535, which was close to one of the predicted T-cell epitopes (amino acids 26-41). In longitudinal analysis of HDV genomes at different time points during chronic infection, novel dominant HDV strains with amino acid changes at these epitopes usually emerged after severe hepatitis attacks. In the comparison of HDV clones during or shortly after flare-up of liver disease, K(a)/K(s) ratios of > 1 were frequently found, suggesting Darwinian positive selection. Therefore, recombination in these two segments may play an important role for HDV in the evasion of immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1622-1632
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1999 Nov


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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