The enhancer I core region contributes to the replication level of hepatitis B virus in vivo and in vitro.


Journal Article

Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection can lead to liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Long-term interaction of the immune system with the virus results in the selection of escape mutants and viral persistence. In this work we characterize mutations in the enhancer I region isolated prior to liver transplantation from the HBV genomes of 10 patients with chronic HBV infection. The HBV-genomes were sequenced, and the enhancer I region was cloned into luciferase reporter constructs to determine the transcriptional activity. Functional studies were performed by transfecting HBV replication-competent plasmids into hepatoma cells. Analyses of the replication fitness of the mutant strains were conducted by biochemical analysis. In all HBV genomes the enhancer I region was mutated. Most of these mutations resulted in decreased transcriptional activity. The strongest effects were detectable in strains with mutations in the hepatocyte nuclear factor 3 and 4 (HNF3 and HNF4) binding sites of the enhancer I core domain. Replication-competent HBV constructs containing these mutations demonstrated up to 10-fold-reduced levels of virus replication. Before liver transplantation, when the mutant strains were detected in the patients' sera, low HBV DNA levels were found. After transplantation and reinfection with a wild-type virus, the levels of replication were up to 240-fold higher. Our results show that mutations in the enhancer I region of HBV have a major impact on HBV replication. These mutations may also determine the switch from high to low levels of viral replication which is frequently observed during chronic HBV infection.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Bock, CT; Malek, NP; Tillmann, HL; Manns, MP; Trautwein, C

Published Date

  • March 2000

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 74 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 2193 - 2202

PubMed ID

  • 10666249

Pubmed Central ID

  • 10666249

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-538X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1128/jvi.74.5.2193-2202.2000


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States