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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Nov 26;99(24):15655-60. Epub 2002 Nov 13.

Infection of a human hepatoma cell line by hepatitis B virus.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) U522, Hôpital de Pontchaillou, 35033 Rennes, France.


Among numerous established human hepatoma cell lines, none has been shown susceptible to hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. We describe here a cell line, called HepaRG, which exhibits hepatocyte-like morphology, expresses specific hepatocyte functions, and supports HBV infection as well as primary cultures of normal human hepatocytes. Differentiation and infectability are maintained only when these cells are cultured in the presence of corticoids and dimethyl sulfoxide. The specificity of this HBV infection model was ascertained by both the neutralization capacity of HBV-envelope protein-specific antibodies and the competition with an envelope-derived peptide. HepaRG cells therefore represent a tool for deciphering the mechanism of HBV entry. Moreover, their close resemblance to normal human hepatocytes makes them suitable for many applications including drug metabolism studies.

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