Simeprevir is a novel NS3/4A protease inhibitor (PI) of hepatitis C virus (HCV). The baseline polymorphism NS3-Q80K is frequently observed in genotype (GT) 1a HCV and often associated with treatment failure in simeprevir-containing regimens. We aimed to elucidate mechanisms of treatment failure due to NS3-Q80K. We included a Q80R mutation in our study and generated a series of Huh-7.5 cell lines, each of which harbored either wild-type GT 1a strain H77S.3 or the Q80K or Q80R variant. The cells were cultured with increasing concentrations of simeprevir, and NS3 domain sequences were determined. The mutations identified by sequence analyses were subsequently introduced into H77S.3. The sensitivity of each mutant to the NS3/4A PIs simeprevir, asunaprevir, grazoprevir, and paritaprevir was analyzed. We introduced the mutations into GT 1b strain N.2 and compared the sensitivity to simeprevir with that of GT 1a strain H77S.3. While simeprevir treatment selected mutations at residue D168, such as D168A/V in the wild-type virus, an additional mutation at residue R155, R155K, was selected in Q80K/R variants at simeprevir concentrations of <2.5 μM. Sensitivity analyses showed that simeprevir concentrations of <1 μM significantly boosted the replication of Q80K/R R155K variants. Interestingly, this boost was not observed with the other NS3/4A PIs or in Q80R R155Q/G/T/W variants or GT 1b isolates. The boosted replication of the Q80K+R155K variant by simeprevir could be related to treatment failure in simeprevir-containing antiviral treatments in GT 1a HCV-infected patients with the NS3-Q80K polymorphism. This result provides new insight into how resistance-associated variants can cause treatment failure.
Keywords: direct-acting antivirals; drug resistance mechanisms; hepatitis C virus; simeprevir.
Copyright © 2018 American Society for Microbiology.