Hepatitis C virus (HCV) sequences recovered from serum, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), and various tissues from human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) positive patients were compared by single strand conformational polymorphism (SSCP) and sequencing. In five patients, paired serum and PBMCs samples were analyzed while in two other patients multiple autopsy tissues were studied. Sequences amplified from the NS5 and E2 regions were consistently identical in the same patient; however, three PBMCs samples and three different tissue samples (pancreas and adrenal gland in one patient and lymph node in the other patient) contained 5' untranslated region (5'UTR) sequences that were different from circulating sequences. The presence of 5'UTR sequences differing from circulating sequences correlated with the presence of HCV RNA negative strand, as the latter was detected by a Tth-based strand-specific assay in all but one of these samples. These two independent lines of evidence: viral sequence differences and the presence of RNA negative strand in the same tissues strongly argue for the genuine presence of extrahepatic HCV replication, at least in the setting of HIV-1 infection.
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