Hepatitis B virus X protein is essential to initiate and maintain virus replication after infection.
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.
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ABSTRACT: Liver cirrhosis is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by progressive displacement of functional hepatocytes by fibrous tissue. The underlying fibrosis is often driven by chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV). Matrix metalloproteinases including MMP-8 are crucial for excess collagen degradation. In a rat model of liver cirrhosis, MMP-8 delivery by an adenovirus (Ad) vector achieved significant amelioration of fibrosis but application of Ad vectors in humans is subject to various issues, including a lack of intrinsic liver specificity. HBV is highly liver-specific and its principal suitability as liver-specific gene transfer vector is established. HBV vectors have a limited insertion capacity and are replication-defective. Conversely, in an HBV infected cell vector replication may be rescued in trans by the resident virus, allowing conditional vector amplification and spreading. Capitalizing on a resident pathogen to help in its elimination and/or in treating its pathogenic consequences would provide a novel strategy. However, resident HBV may also reduce susceptibility to HBV vector superinfection. Thus a size-compatible truncated MMP-8 (tMMP8) gene was cloned into an HBV vector which was then used to generate a chimeric Ad-HBV shuttle vector that is not subject to superinfection exclusion. Rats with thioacetamide-induced liver cirrhosis were injected with the chimera to evaluate therapeutic efficacy. Our data demonstrate that infectious HBV vector particles can be obtained via trans-complementation by wild-type virus, and that the tMMP8 HBV vector can efficiently be shuttled by an Ad vector into cirrhotic rat livers. There it exerted a comparable beneficial effect on fibrosis and hepatocyte proliferation markers as a conventional full-length MMP-8Ad vector. Though the rat cirrhosis model does not allow assessing in vivo HBV vector amplification these results advocate the further development of Ad-HBV vectors for liver-specific gene therapy, including and perhaps particularly for HBV-related disease.PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(1):e53392. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The hepatitis B virus X protein (HBx) is essential for virus replication and has been implicated in the development of liver cancer. HBx is recruited onto viral and cellular promoters and activates transcription by interacting with transcription factors and coactivators. Here, we purified HBx-associated factors in nuclear extracts from HepG2 hepatoma cells and identified the protein arginine methyl transferase 1 (PRMT1) as a novel HBx interacting protein. We showed that PRMT1 overexpression reduced the transcription of hepatitis B virus (HBV), and this inhibition was dependent on the methyltransferase function of PRMT1. Conversely, depletion of PRMT1 correlated with increased HBV transcription. Using quantitative chromatin immunoprecipitation assay, we found that PRMT1 is recruited onto HBV DNA, suggesting a direct effect of PRMT1 in the regulation of HBV transcription. Finally, we showed that HBx expression inhibited PRMT1-mediated protein methylation. Downregulation of PRMT1 activity was further observed in HBV-replicating cells in an in vivo animal model. All together, our results support the notion that the binding of HBx to PRMT1 might benefit viral replication by relieving the inhibitory activity of PRMT1 on HBV transcription.Journal of Virology 02/2013; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Viral vectors are engineered virus variants able to deliver nonviral genetic information into cells, usually by the same routes as the parental viruses. For several virus families, replication-competent vectors carrying reporter genes have become invaluable tools for easy and quantitative monitoring of replication and infection, and thus also for identifying antivirals and virus susceptible cells. For hepatitis B virus (HBV), a small enveloped DNA virus causing B-type hepatitis, such vectors are not available because insertions into its tiny 3.2 kb genome almost inevitably affect essential replication elements. HBV replicates by reverse transcription of the pregenomic (pg) RNA which is also required as bicistronic mRNA for the capsid (core) protein and the reverse transcriptase (Pol); their open reading frames (ORFs) overlap by some 150 basepairs. Translation of the downstream Pol ORF does not involve a conventional internal ribosome entry site (IRES). We reasoned that duplicating the overlap region and providing artificial IRES control for translation of both Pol and an in-between inserted transgene might yield a functional tricistronic pgRNA, without interfering with envelope protein expression. As IRESs we used a 22 nucleotide element termed Rbm3 IRES to minimize genome size increase. Model plasmids confirmed its activity even in tricistronic arrangements. Analogous plasmids for complete HBV genomes carrying 399 bp and 720 bp transgenes for blasticidin resistance (BsdR) and humanized Renilla green fluorescent protein (hrGFP) produced core and envelope proteins like wild-type HBV; while the hrGFP vector replicated poorly, the BsdR vector generated around 40% as much replicative DNA as wild-type HBV. Both vectors, however, formed enveloped virions which were infectious for HBV-susceptible HepaRG cells. Because numerous reporter and effector genes with sizes of around 500 bp or less are available, the new HBV vectors should become highly useful tools to better understand, and combat, this important pathogen.PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(4):e60306. · 3.73 Impact Factor