Journal of virology

DDX3 DEAD-box RNA helicase is a host factor that restricts hepatitis B virus replication at the transcriptional level.

PMID 25231298


DDX3 is a member of the DEAD-box RNA helicase family, involved in mRNA metabolism, including transcription, splicing, and translation. We previously identified DDX3 as a hepatitis B virus (HBV) polymerase (Pol) binding protein, and by using a transient transfection, we found that DDX3 inhibits HBV replication at the posttranscriptional level, perhaps following encapsidation. To determine the exact mechanism of the inhibition, we here employed a diverse HBV experimental system. Inconsistently, we found that DDX3-mediated inhibition occurs at the level of transcription. By using tetracycline-inducible HBV-producing cells, we observed that lentivirus-mediated DDX3 expression led to a reduced level of HBV RNAs. Importantly, knockdown of DDX3 by short hairpin RNA resulted in augmentation of HBV RNAs in two distinct HBV replication systems: (i) tetracycline-inducible HBV-producing cells and (ii) constitutive HBV-producing HepG2.2.15 cells. Moreover, DDX3 knockdown in HBV-susceptible HepG2-NTCP cells, where covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) serves as the template for viral transcription, resulted in increased HBV RNAs, validating that transcription regulation by DDX3 occurs on a physiological template. Overall, our results demonstrate that DDX3 represents an intrinsic host antiviral factor that restricts HBV transcription. Upon entry into host cells, viruses encounter host factors that restrict viral infection. During evolution, viruses have acquired the ability to subvert cellular factors that adversely affect their replication. Such host factors include TRIM5α and APOBEC3G, which were discovered in retroviruses. The discovery of host restriction factors provided deeper insight into the innate immune response and viral pathogenesis, leading to better understanding of host-virus interactions. In contrast to the case with retroviruses, little is known about host factors that restrict hepatitis B virus (HBV), a virus distantly related to retroviruses. DDX3 DEAD box RNA helicase is best characterized as an RNA helicase involved in RNA metabolism, such as RNA processing and translation. Here, we show that DDX3 inhibits HBV infection at the level of viral transcription.