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J Biol Chem. 1992 Jan 25;267(3):1953-61.

Hepatitis B virus envelope L protein particles. Synthesis and assembly in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, purification and characterization.

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  • 1Biotechnology Research Laboratories, Takeda Chemical Industries, Ltd., Osaka, Japan.


The hepatitis B virus envelope gene encodes three transmembrane proteins in frame; S, the product of S gene; M, the product of M (pre-S2 + S) gene; and L, the product of L (pre-S1 + pre-S2 + S) gene. Unlike the S and M proteins, attempts to efficiently synthesize L proteins and assemble them into L protein particles in various eukaryotic cells have been unsuccessful, probably because of the presence of the pre-S1 peptide with an unknown function which appears to be inhibitory to the host secretory apparatus. To investigate the role of the pre-S1 peptide, we constructed an L gene fused with a synthetic gene for chicken-lysozyme signal peptide (C-SIG) at the 5'-terminal and placed the resultant gene under the control of the yeast glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase gene promoter. After the fused-C-SIG peptide was correctly processed by the yeast secretory apparatus, a yeast transformant synthesized a protein with a molecular mass of approximately 52 kDa at a level of 42% of the total soluble protein. Electron micrographic observation showed that the gene products assembled into 23-nm spherical and filamentous particles. The pre-S peptide of the gene product was deposited into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) lumen and well-glycosylated. It seemed that the gene products were accumulated as particles in certain specific membrane structures of the yeast secretory apparatus. Moreover, both the amount of mRNAs specific for the L gene and the in vivo stability of the synthesized L proteins did not change significantly by the addition of the C-SIG gene. These findings indicated that, if the pre-S1 peptide penetrates the ER membrane efficiently, the L proteins can be synthesized cotranslationally, translocate across the ER membrane with its S region, and then assemble by themselves into the particle form. Therefore, the pre-S1 peptide may involve weak or reduced signal peptide activity for recognition by the secretory apparatus and/or for the transport of the pre-S peptide into the ER lumen.

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