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J Biomed Sci. 2012 Feb 7;19:17. doi: 10.1186/1423-0127-19-17.

Functional analysis of hepatitis B virus pre-s deletion variants associated with hepatocellular carcinoma.

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  • 1School of Medicine, Fu Jen Catholic University, New Taipei City, Taiwan.



Naturally occurring pre-S deletion mutants have been identified in hepatitis B carriers and shown to be associated with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. The phenotypes of these pre-S deletion genomes remain unclear, and they were investigated in this study.


The pre-S deletion genomes: (1) pre-S1 deletion, (2) deletion spanning pre-S1 and pre-S2, (3) pre-S2 N-terminal deletion, and (4) pre-S2 internal deletion were constructed and analyzed by transfection into Huh-7 cells.


Functional analyses reveal that these mutants were divided into two groups: S promoter deletion and non-S promoter deletion variants. Compared with the wild-type genome, S promoter deletion variants led to an inverse ratio of pre-S1 mRNA and pre-S2/S mRNA, and intracellular accumulation of surface proteins. An interesting finding is that a small amount of L proteins was detected in the medium from S promoter deletion variant-transfected cells. Non-S promoter deletion variants conversely displayed a wild-type like mRNA and protein pattern. The secretion of surface proteins from non-S promoter deletion variants was inhibited less than from S promoter deletion variant. Immunofluorescence analysis showed mutant surface proteins colocalized with ER and exhibited an atypical distribution: granular staining pattern in the S-promoter deletion variants and perinuclear staining pattern in the non-S promoter deletion variants.


This study shows that these pre-S deletion genomes exhibit two different phenotypes in mRNA transcription, surface protein expression and secretion. This diversity seems to result from the deletion of S promoter rather than result from the deletion of pre-S1 or pre-S2.

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