HCV is a single-stranded RNA virus with a single open reading frame (ORF) that is translated into a polyprotein that is then processed to form 10 viral proteins. An additional eleventh viral protein, the alternative reading frame protein (ARFP), was discovered relatively recently. This protein results from a translational frameshift in the core region during the expression of the viral proteins. Recombinant expression of different forms of ARFP was previously done for HCV genotypes 1 and 2, and more recently, genotype 3. However, none of the previous studies addressed the expression of ARFP of HCV genotype 4a, which is responsible for 80 % of HCV infections in the Middle East and Africa. Moreover, the direct detection of the ARFP antigen in HCV-infected patients was never studied before for any HCV genotype. In the present study, recombinant ARFP derived from HCV genotype 4a was successfully expressed in E. coli and purified using metal affinity chromatography. The recombinant ARFP protein and anti-ARFP antibodies were used for detection of ARFP antigen in patients’ sera, employing competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) procedures. Furthermore, the recombinant antigen was also used to detect and quantify anti-ARFP antibodies in HCV-infected Egyptian patients at different stages of pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy, using an ELISA assay. The ARFP antigen was detectable in 69.4 % of RNA-positive sera, indicating that ARFP antigen is produced during the natural course of HCV infection. In addition, significant levels of anti-ARFP antibodies were present in 41 % of the serum samples tested. The important diagnostic value of the recombinant ARFP antigen was also demonstrated.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 3, 2015
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