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Dig Liver Dis. 2003 Nov;35(11):795-800.

Integration of hepatitis B virus containing mutations in the core promoter/X gene in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Division of Emerging and Transfusion Transmitted Diseases, Food and Drug Administration, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, 1401 Rockville Pike, HFM-300, Rockville, MD 20852-1448, USA.


Integration of hepatitis B virus is thought to be an essential step in hepatitis B virus associated hepatocarcinogenesis. Mutations at nucleotides 1762 and 1764 in the hepatitis B virus, within a sequence encoding both the core promoter gene and the X gene, have been found frequently in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. However, integration of these mutant sequences has not been reported to date.


A 228-base pair segment of the hepatitis B virus core promoter gene was amplified from hepatocellular carcinomas and adjacent non-tumourous liver tissue by nested PCR and sequenced. Integration of hepatitis B virus into human genomic DNA was investigated using the 'genome walking' method.


Point mutations were found in both hepatitis B virus nucleotides 1762 and 1764 in 8 of 14 hepatocellular carcinoma tissues (57%) and in 11 of 14 adjacent non-tumourous liver tissues (79%). Three patients were evaluated using the 'genome walking' method; all were found to have hepatitis B virus DNA integrated in their hepatocellular carcinoma (two patients) and/or in their non-tumourous liver tissue (three patients). Integration occurred in all tissues near host genomic sites that are prone to integration. Hepatitis B virus was integrated at or near the hepatitis B virus DR1 site in all samples, and all contained truncated X gene sequences that have been reported to be capable of producing fusion transcripts with transactivation potential.


Integrated hepatitis B virus DNA containing core promoter mutations at nucleotides 1762 and 1764 was found in hepatocellular carcinoma and/or adjacent non-tumourous liver tissue of three patients. These findings leave open the possibility that insertional mutagenesis or transactivation by fusion transcripts resulting from hepatitis B virus integration could play a role in hepatocarcinogenesis in some patients.

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