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J Hepatol. 1999 Nov;31(5):791-9.

Effect of interferon alpha on hepatitis B virus replication and gene expression in transiently transfected human hepatoma cells.

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Department of General Virology, Heinrich-Pette-Institut für Experimentelle Virologie und Immunologie, Hamburg, Germany.



Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is predominantly treated with interferon alpha (IFNalpha), which results in efficient reduction of the viral load only in 10-20% of treated patients. The mechanisms induced by IFNalpha resulting in reduction of viremia in responding patients are unknown. The aim of this study was to characterize HBV-specific IFNalpha-induced intracellular inhibitory mechanisms and IFNalpha-sensitive HBV targets.


To determine the antiviral activity, cells transiently transfected with HBV DNA were treated with IFNalpha and thereafter, viral products were quantified at different time points.


Time-dependent reduction of RNA, replicative DNA-intermediates, core protein and secreted HBsAg/HBeAg levels was observed in IFNalpha-treated cells. Viral RNA levels were reduced most effectively early post-treatment whereas those of core protein and replicative intermediates decreased later. By expression of subgenomic HBV sequences, an RNA target region mediating IFNalpha-induced RNA degradation was mapped.


These data indicate that HuH7 cells transiently transfected with HBV-DNA represent a system well suited for detailed analysis of IFNa-induced antiviral mechanisms and HBV targets. At least two IFNalpha-induced HBV-specific antiviral activities are active in this system: one reduces the levels of core protein and replicative intermediates, the other leads to posttranscriptional degradation of HBV-RNA. Based on the established in vitro system a detailed characterization of the IFNalpha-sensitive RNA-region and of factors mediating this intracellular antiviral effect is feasible. This may lead to the development of novel strategies for therapy of chronic hepatitis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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