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Mol Cell Biol. 1999 Sep;19(9):6345-54.

Direct association and nuclear import of the hepatitis B virus X protein with the NF-kappaB inhibitor IkappaBalpha.

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Unité de Biologie Moléculaire de l'Expression Génique, URA 1773 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut Pasteur, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.


The X protein of hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a transcriptional activator which is required for infection and may play an important role in HBV-associated hepatocarcinogenesis. It has been suggested that X acts as a nuclear coactivator or stimulates several signal transduction pathways by acting in the cytoplasm. One of these pathways leads to the nuclear translocation of NF-kappaB. A recent report indicates that X activates NF-kappaB by acting on two cytoplasmic inhibitors of this family of transcription factors: IkappaBalpha and the precursor/inhibitor p105. We demonstrate here that X directly interacts with IkappaBalpha, which is able to transport it to the nucleus by a piggyback mechanism. This transport requires a region of IkappaBalpha (the second ankyrin repeat) which has been demonstrated to be involved in its nuclear import following NF-kappaB activation. Using deletion mutants, we showed that amino acids 249 to 253 of IkappaBalpha (located in the C-terminal part of the sixth ankyrin repeat) play a critical role in the interaction with X. This small region overlaps one of the domains of IkappaBalpha mediating the interaction with the p50 and p65 subunits of NF-kappaB and is also close to the nuclear export sequence of IkappaBalpha, therefore providing a potential explanation for the nuclear accumulation of IkappaBalpha with X. This association can also be observed upon the induction of endogenous IkappaBalpha by tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) treatment of Chang cells expressing X. In accordance with this observation, band shift analysis indicates that X induces a sustained NF-kappaB activation following TNF-alpha treatment, probably by preventing the reassociation of newly synthesized nuclear IkappaBalpha with DNA-bound NF-kappaB complexes.

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