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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jul 3, 1995; 92(14): 6259–6263.

The pre-S domain of the large viral envelope protein determines host range in avian hepatitis B viruses.


In addition to their well-recognized hepatotropism, all hepatitis B viruses (HBVs) display marked species specificity, growing poorly or not at all in species other than those closely related to their natural hosts. We have examined the molecular basis for this narrow host range, using duck HBV (DHBV) and heron HBV (HHBV) as a model system. HHBV virions will not infect ducks in vivo and infect cultured duck hepatocytes extremely inefficiently in vitro. Mutant HHBV genomes lacking all viral envelope proteins (HHBV env-) can be complemented in trans with DHBV envelope proteins; the resulting pseudotyped virions can efficiently infect duck hepatocytes. Further complementation analysis reveals that of the two viral surface proteins (L and S), it is the L protein that determines host range. Pseudotyping of HHBV env- with DHBV/HHBV chimeric envelope proteins reveals that replacement of as few as 69 amino acids of the pre-S domain of the HHBV L protein by their DHBV counterparts is sufficient to permit infection of duck hepatocytes. These studies indicate that the species-specificity of hepadnaviral infection is determined at the level of virus entry and is governed by the pre-S domain of the viral L protein.

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