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Arch Virol. 2005 Apr;150(4):721-41. Epub 2004 Dec 21.

Human hepatitis B virus X protein promotes cell proliferation and inhibits cell apoptosis through interacting with a serine protease Hepsin.

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  • 1Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Virology, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan, P.R. China.


The X protein of human hepatitis B virus (HBV) acts as an indirect transcriptional transactivator to regulate the expression of many viral and cellular genes as well as playing a critical role in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. While the biological importance of HBx has been well established, the cellular and molecular bases of its function remain largely undefined. In this study, we isolated a new HBV field strain from a patient with chronic viral infection. The X protein encoded by this virus was used as a bait protein for screening a human liver cDNA library using a yeast two-hybrid system. Several cell proteins were identified as new HBx interacting partners, including a transmembrane serine protease, Hepsin. Direct interaction between HBx and Hepsin proteins was confirmed by in vitro and in vivo co-immunoprecipitation assays. HBx also co-localized with Hepsin in human cells as determined by confocal immunofluorescence microscopy. The interaction between HBx and Hepsin protein appeared to play a role in both promoting cell proliferation and blocking apoptosis in human liver tumor cell and normal liver cell lines. In addition, the complex of HBx and Hepsin promoted the expression of HBeAg in Hep G2.2.1.5 cells indicating that the association of these two proteins stimulated viral replication.

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