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J Virol. 1992 May;66(5):2829-36.

Duck hepatitis B virus infection of hepatocytes is not dependent on low pH.

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  • 1Zentrum für Molekulare Biologie (ZMBH), University of Heidelberg, Germany.


The pH dependency for initiation of infection by the hepadnavirus duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) was investigated in primary duck hepatocytes. First, an infection assay was developed using a radioimmunoblot to measure DHBV e antigen secreted into tissue culture fluid from infected hepatocytes. The quantity of this viral marker was proportional to the duration of inoculation and the amount of DHBV used as inoculum. The role of pH in initiation of DHBV infection was investigated by using this assay, but no dependence on low pH was found. DHBV was able to infect hepatocytes in the presence of NH4Cl and monensin, agents that raise the pH in intracellular vesicles and prevent penetration of viruses dependent on low pH in endosomes. In control experiments, infection by Semliki Forest virus, which is low pH dependent, was inhibited, whereas herpes simplex virus type 1 infection, which is pH independent, occurred. Attempts to trigger DHBV-cell fusion by exposure of DHBV prebound to hepatocytes to mildly acidic pH were unsuccessful. In these experiments, it was also observed that internalization of DHBV occurred only between pH 6.8 and 8.0. Additionally, in the absence of cells, infectivity of DHBV was stable at pH 4.6 to 4.8, which is lower than the pH encountered in endosomes (pH 5 to 6.6). Thus, no evidence for a role for mildly acidic pH in the initiation of DHBV infection was found. Therefore, we propose that the infection route followed by DHBV resembles that of the group of enveloped viruses, including herpesviruses, that fuse with their host cells at neutral pH.

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