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J Virol. 1992 Sep;66(9):5284-9.

The hepatitis B virus pre-S/S(t) transactivator is generated by 3' truncations within a defined region of the S gene.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie, Martinsried, Germany.


Recently, it was reported that 3' truncation of an integrated surface gene (pre-S2/S) cloned from a hepatitis B virus (HBV)-associated hepatoma gave rise to the generation of a C-terminally truncated middle surface protein (MHBst), which surprisingly exerted a transcriptional transactivator function. To define the molecular requirements for the generation of transactivating MHBs(t) proteins, a 3' deletion analysis of the HBV pre-S2/S gene was performed. In cotransfection experiments with reporter plasmid pSV2CAT, full-length pre-S2/S genes or pre-S2/S genes with minor 3'-terminal deletions did not exhibit transactivator activity. In contrast, deletion of C-terminal hydrophobic region III of the S domain generated the transactivator function. Further stepwise 3' deletions, removing hydrophobic region II and both hydrophilic regions of the S domain, did not interfere with the transactivator activity; it was completely abolished, however, after additional deletion of hydrophobic region I. The results of this study define a range within the S open reading frame (between HBV nucleotides 221 and 573), termed the trans-activity-on region, in which 3' deletions give rise to the generation of transactivating MHBs(t) proteins. Within this region, not only 3' deletions but also the introduction of a stop codon activated the transactivator function, indicating that point mutations of integrated HBV DNA also may give rise to the synthesis of transactivating MHBs(t) proteins in vivo.

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