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Expression of HCV Alternative Reading Frame Protein (Core+1/F) in Baculovirus Expression System and its Evaluation for Assessment of Specific Anti-core+1 Antibody in Iranian HCV Infected Patients by Pooneh Rahimi, Rouhollah Vahabpour, Farideh Sadat Sajadian Fard, Fatemeh Motevalli, Fatemeh Fotouhi Chahouki, Mohammad Reza Aghasadeghi, Azam Bolhassani, Seyed Mehdi Sadat, Ehsan Mostafavi, Nasir Mohajel, Ali Jahanian-Najafabadi, Mohammad Reza Amiran

Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) genome contains an overlapping reading frame which results in alternative core protein (ARFP). Baculovirus expression system was used as a powerful eukaryotic vector system to express core+1/F protein for the first time. This recombinant core+1/F protein was used to assess the anti-core+1 antibody in anti-HCV drug resistant and sustained virologic response (SVR) patients.
Methods: The core+1 coding sequence from HCV genotype 1 was designed and synthesized in pUC57 vector. It was subcloned into baculovirus donor plasmid pFastBacTM HTA and transposed into baculovirus shuttle vector (bacmid) to transfect Sf9 cells. Recombinant core+1 protein was purified using Ni-NTA agarose under native condition and verified using SDS-PAGE electrophoresis and Western blotting. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed using this purified protein to assess anti-core+1 antibody in 28 anti-HCV drug resistant patients and in 34 patients with sustained virologic response (SVR) in comparison with 31 healthy volunteers used as the negative control.
Results: Expression of HCV core+1 protein in Sf9 cells was confirmed by using SDS-PAGE and Western blotting. Antibody titer against core+1 protein in anti-HCV drug resistant patients was significantly higher than that in both the healthy volunteers and SVR patients (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: HCV core+1 protein was expressed successfully in a baculovirus expression system in high yield in order to develop an ELISA to assess the anti-core+1 antibody. Further studies are needed to reveal the potential application of core+1 protein in anti-HCV treatment prognosis.

DOI: 10.7754/Clin.Lab.2016.160205