Ribavirin induces error-prone replication of GB virus B in primary tamarin hepatocytes

R. E. Lanford, D. Chavez, B. Guerra, J. Y.N. Lau, Z. Hong, K. M. Brasky, B. Beames

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


GB virus B (GBV-B) is the closest relative of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and is an attractive surrogate model for HCV antiviral studies. GBV-B induces an acute, resolving hepatitis in tamarins. Utilizing primary cultures of tamarin hepatocytes, we have previously developed a tissue culture system that exhibits high levels of GBV-B replication. In this report, we have extended the utility of this system for testing antiviral compounds. Treatment with human interferon provided only a marginal antiviral effect, while poly(I-C) yielded >3 and 4 log units of reduction of cell-associated and secreted viral RNA, respectively. Interestingly, treatment of GBV-B-infected hepatocytes with ribavirin resulted in an approximately 4-log decrease in viral RNA levels. Guanosine blocked the antiviral effect of ribavirin, suggesting that inhibition of IMP dehydrogenase (IMPDH) and reduction of intracellular GTP levels were essential for the antiviral effect. However, mycophenolic acid, another IMPDH inhibitor, had no antiviral effect. Virions harvested from ribavirin-treated cultures exhibited a dramatically reduced specific infectivity. These data suggest that incorporation of ribavirin triphosphate induces error-prone replication with concomitant reduction in infectivity and that reduction of GTP pools may be required for incorporation of ribavirin triphosphate. In contrast to the in vitro studies, no significant reduction in viremia was observed in vivo following treatment of tamarins with ribavirin during acute infection with GBV-B. These findings are consistent with the observation that ribavirin monotherapy for HCV infection decreases liver disease without a significant reduction in viremia. Our data suggest that nucleoside analogues that induce error-prone replication could be an attractive approach for the treatment of HCV infection if administered at sufficient levels to result in efficient incorporation by the viral polymerase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8074-8081
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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