The emergence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) with resistance-associated substitution (RAS), produced by mutations in the HCV genome, is a major problem in direct acting antivirals (DAA) treatment. This study aimed to clarify the mutational spectrum in HCV-RNA and the substitution pattern for the emergence of RASs in patients with chronic HCV infection. HCV-RNA from two HCV replicon cell lines and the serum HCV-RNA of four non-liver transplant and four post-liver transplant patients with unsuccessful DAA treatment were analyzed using high-accuracy single-molecule real-time long-read sequencing. Transition substitutions, especially A>G and U>C, occurred prominently under DAAs in both non-transplant and post-transplant patients, with a mutational bias identical to that occurring in HCV replicon cell lines during 10-year culturing. These mutational biases were reproduced in natural courses after DAA treatment. RASs emerged via both transition and transversion substitutions. NS3-D168 and NS5A-L31 RASs resulted from transversion mutations, while NS5A-Y93 RASs was caused by transition substitutions. The fidelity of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, HCV-NS5B, produces mutational bias in the HCV genome, characterized by dominant transition mutations, notably A>G and U>C substitutions. However, RASs are acquired by both transition and transversion substitutions, and the RASs-positive HCV clones are selected and proliferated under DAA treatment pressure.
© 2022. The Author(s).