Journal of virology

Hepatitis B Virus Covalently Closed Circular DNA Formation in Immortalized Mouse Hepatocytes Associated with Nucleocapsid Destabilization.

PMID 26085156


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infects hundreds of millions of people worldwide and causes acute and chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. HBV is an enveloped virus with a relaxed circular (RC) DNA genome. In the nuclei of infected human hepatocytes, conversion of RC DNA from the incoming virion or cytoplasmic mature nucleocapsid (NC) to the covalently closed circular (CCC) DNA, which serves as the template for producing all viral transcripts, is essential to establish and sustain viral replication. For reasons yet to be understood, HBV is apparently unable to make CCC DNA in normal mouse hepatocytes in the liver. We report here that HBV CCC DNA was formed efficiently in an immortalized mouse hepatocyte cell line, AML12HBV10, and this is associated with destabilization of mature NCs in these cells. These results suggest that destabilization of mature HBV NCs in AML12HBV10 cells facilitates efficient NC uncoating and subsequent CCC DNA formation. They further implicate NC uncoating as an important step in CCC DNA formation that is subject to host regulation and potentially a critical determinant of host range and/or cell tropism of HBV. IMPORTANCE Persistent infection by hepatitis B virus (HBV), afflicting hundreds of millions worldwide, is sustained by the episomal viral covalently closed circular (CCC) DNA in the nuclei of infected hepatocytes. CCC DNA is converted from the viral genomic (precursor) DNA contained in cytoplasmic viral nucleocapsids. The conversion process remains ill defined, but host cell factors are thought to play an essential role. In particular, HBV fails to make CCC DNA in normal mouse hepatocytes despite the presence of large amounts of nucleocapsids containing the precursor viral DNA. We have found that in an immortalized mouse hepatocyte cell line, HBV is able to make abundant amounts of CCC DNA. This ability correlates with increased instability of viral nucleocapsids in these cells, which likely facilitates nucleocapsid disassembly (uncoating) to release the genomic DNA for conversion to CCC DNA. Our studies have thus revealed a novel mechanism of controlling viral persistence via regulating nucleocapsid disassembly.

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T0251 Thymidine 5′-triphosphate sodium salt, ≥96%