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Hepatology. 2003 Nov;38(5):1274-81.

Deficiency in virion secretion and decreased stability of the hepatitis B virus immune escape mutant G145R.

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Heinrich-Pette-Institute for experimental Virology and Immunology at the University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.


Hepatitis B virus with a G145R mutation in the small surface protein is considered the quintessential immune escape mutant because it frequently is found in vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections and liver transplant recipients under anti-hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) immunoglobulin prophylaxis. Nowadays the prevalence of the variant progressively increases. However, because spread of a virus depends not only on immune pressure but also on the viral phenotype, we investigated the biologic properties of the G145R variant. The G145R mutation was introduced into wild-type (Wt) virus genome by in vitro mutagenesis. After transfection into human hepatoma cells, the DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis and viral secretion ability of the mutant were studied. Furthermore, cotransfection studies were performed with the G145R variant and a Wt virus S-protein expressing construct and vice versa. Production and stability of viral messenger RNAs (mRNAs), DNA, and proteins were not affected by the G145R mutation. In contrast, secretion of mutant virions was reduced significantly. Only 20% of virions were found in the medium of G145R variant-transfected cells compared with Wt virus. Furthermore, mutant virions were more sensitive to detergent treatment suggesting a diminished stability. In cotransfection studies, Wt virus S-protein rescued secretion of mutant virions, whereas mutant S-protein had a transdominant negative effect on secretion of Wt virus. Both mechanisms may support persistence of the defective mutant in a mixed population with Wt virus. In conclusion, the significant defect of the G145R mutant for secretion of infectious virions and the diminished stability of mutant virions may limit global spread of the mutant.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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