Hepatitis B virus X protein is essential to initiate and maintain virus replication after infection

Institute of Virology, Technische Universität München/Helmholtz Zentrum München, Trogerstrasse, 30, 81675 Munich, Germany.
Journal of Hepatology (Impact Factor: 9.86). 03/2011; 55(5):996-1003. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhep.2011.02.015
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The molecular biology of hepatitis B virus (HBV) has been extensively studied but the exact role of the hepatitis B X protein (HBx) in the context of natural HBV infections remains unknown.
Primary human hepatocytes and differentiated HepaRG cells allowing conditional trans complementation of HBx were infected with wild type (HBV(wt)) or HBx deficient (HBV(x-)) HBV particles and establishment of HBV replication was followed.
We observed that cells inoculated with HBx-deficient HBV particles (HBV(x-)) did not lead to productive HBV infection contrary to cells inoculated with wild type HBV particles (HBV(wt)). Although equal amounts of nuclear covalently closed circular HBV-DNA (cccDNA) demonstrated comparable uptake and nuclear import, active transcription was only observed from HBV(wt) genomes. Trans-complementation of HBx was able to rescue transcription from the HBV(x-) genome and led to antigen and virion secretion, even weeks after infection. Constant expression of HBx was necessary to maintain HBV antigen expression and replication. Finally, we demonstrated that HBx is not packaged into virions during assembly but is expressed after infection within the new host cell to allow epigenetic control of HBV transcription from cccDNA.
Our results demonstrate that HBx is required to initiate and maintain HBV replication and highlight HBx as the key regulator during the natural infection process.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Human hepatitis B virus (HBV) is the prototype of a family of small DNA viruses that productively infect hepatocytes, the major cell of the liver, and replicate by reverse transcription of a terminally redundant viral RNA, the pregenome. Upon infection, the circular, partially double-stranded virion DNA is converted in the nucleus to a covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) that assembles into a minichromosome, the template for viral mRNA synthesis. Infection of hepatocytes is non-cytopathic. Infection of the liver may be either transient (<6 months) or chronic and lifelong, depending on the ability of the host immune response to clear the infection. Chronic infections can cause immune-mediated liver damage progressing to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The mechanisms of carcinogenesis are unclear. Antiviral therapies with nucleoside analog inhibitors of viral DNA synthesis delay sequelae, but cannot cure HBV infections due to the persistence of cccDNA in hepatocytes. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is among the most frequent human malignancies and a major cause of cancer-related death worldwide. It is characterized by late detection and fast progression, and it is believed that epigenetic disruption may be one of the molecular mechanisms leading to hepatocarcinogenesis. Previous studies from our group revealed that HCC tumors exhibit specific DNA methylation signatures associated with major risk factors and tumor progression. Imprinted genes are mono-allelically expressed in a parent-of-origin-dependent manner and have been suggested to be more susceptible to deregulation in cancer. To test this notion, we performed a targeted analysis of DNA methylation in known imprinted genes, using HCC samples and in vitro models of carcinogenic exposure. Analysis of HCC DNA methylation in two independent datasets showed that differentially methylated loci are significantly enriched in imprinted genes. Most of the promoters of imprinted genes were found hypomethylated in HCC tumors compared to surrounding tissues, contrasting with the frequent promoter hypermethylation observed in tumors. We next investigated the status of methylation of the imprinting control region (ICR) of different imprinted clusters and found that the 15q11-13 ICR was significantly hypomethylated in tumors relative to their surrounding tissues. In addition, expression of imprinted genes within this cluster was frequently deregulated in a gene-specific manner, suggesting distinct mechanisms of regulation in this region. Finally, primary human hepatocytes and hepatocyte-like HepaRG cells displayed higher methylation variability in certain imprinted loci after natural hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and after lipid accumulation, respectively. The methylation status of a large panel of imprinted genes was found deregulated in HCC, suggesting a major role of this mechanism during hepatocarcinogenesis. In vitro models support the hypothesis of imprinted gene methylation as a potential marker of environmental exposures.
    Clinical Epigenetics 12/2015; 7(1):15. DOI:10.1186/s13148-015-0053-9 · 6.22 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background For more than 240 million chronic HBV carriers worldwide, effective therapeutic HBV vaccines are urgently needed. Recently, we demonstrated that autophagosomes were efficient antigens carriers and capable to cross-prime robust T-cell responses and mediate regression of multiple established tumors. Here we tested whether autophagosomes derived from HBV expressing cells could also function as a therapeutic vaccine.Methods We generated an autophagosome-based HBV vaccine from HBV-expressing hepatoma cells and examined its ability to induce polyvalent anti-HBV T-cell responses and therapeutic efficacy in mouse models that mimics acute and chronic HBV infection in human.ResultsWhen compared to the vaccine based on recombinant HBsAg, autophagosome-based HBV vaccine cross-primed multi-specific anti-HBV T-cell responses and significantly reduced HBV replication and HBcAg expression in livers of both acute and chronic mouse models. Therapeutic effect of this HBV vaccine depended on anti-HBV CD8+ effector T cells and associated with increased HBsAg and HBcAg specific IFN-¿ producing T cells in the chronic mouse model.Conclusions These results indicated that autophagosome-based HBV vaccine could effectively suppress the HBV replication, clear the HBV infected hepatocytes, and break the HBV tolerance in mouse model. The potential clinical application of autophagosome-based HBV vaccine is discussed.
    Journal of Translational Medicine 12/2014; 12(1):361. DOI:10.1186/s12967-014-0361-4 · 3.99 Impact Factor