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Oncogene. 1999 Nov 25;18(50):6965-73.

Association of hepatitis B virus X protein with mitochondria causes mitochondrial aggregation at the nuclear periphery, leading to cell death.

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Department of Gene Research, Cancer Institute, Tokyo, Japan.


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) X protein activates many viral and cellular genes in trans and functional disruption of the p53 tumor suppressor gene product occurs when X protein is transiently expressed in the cytoplasm of cultured cells. We have carried out investigations to determine the exact location of X protein in X gene transfected cells by using a fluorescent staining technique as well as by biochemical analyses. Aggregation of mitochondrial structures became evident at the periphery of nucleus in the cytoplasm of X transfected cells. X protein was found associated with the aggregated mitochondrial structures. Furthermore, transiently expressed p53 protein co-localized with X protein in X transfected cells. However, the appearance of aggregated mitochondrial structures at the nuclear periphery was independent of the presence of p53 protein in X transfected cells. X protein expression also caused an appearance of TUNEL positive nucleus, cytochrome c release from mitochondrial, the decrease of mitochondrial membrane potential and the membrane blebbing of X transfected cells, which are characteristic of cell death. Our data suggest that X protein causes an abnormal aggregation of mitochondrial structures in the cell, which may be eventually connected with cell death.

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