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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Apr;87(8):2970-4.

A trans-activator function is generated by integration of hepatitis B virus preS/S sequences in human hepatocellular carcinoma DNA.

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  • 1Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie, Department of Virus Research, Martinsried, Federal Republic of Germany.


The X gene of wild-type hepatitis B virus or integrated DNA has recently been shown to stimulate transcription of a variety of enhancers and promoters. To further delineate the viral sequences responsible for trans-activation in hepatomas, we cloned the single hepatitis B virus insert from human hepatocellular carcinoma DNA M1. The plasmid pM1 contains 2004 base pairs of hepatitis B virus DNA subtype adr, including truncated preS/S sequences and the enhancer element. The X promoter and 422 nucleotides of the X coding region are present. The entire preC/C gene is deleted. In transient cotransfection assays using Chang liver cells (CCL 13), pM1 DNA exerts a 6- to 10-fold trans-activating effect on the expression of the pSV2CAT reporter plasmid. The trans-activation occurs by stimulation of transcription and is dependent on the simian virus 40 enhancer in the reporter plasmid. Deletion analysis of pM1 subclones reveals that the trans-activator is encoded by preS/S and not by X sequences. A frameshift mutation within the preS2 open reading frame shows that this portion is indispensable for the trans-activating function. Initiation of transcription has been mapped to the S1 promoter. A comparable trans-activating effect is also observed with cloned wild-type hepatitis B virus sequences similarly truncated. These results show that a transcriptional trans-activator function not present in the intact gene is generated by 3' truncation of integrated hepatitis B virus DNA preS/S sequences.

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