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J Virol. 2004 Aug;78(15):8289-300.

Itinerary of hepatitis B viruses: delineation of restriction points critical for infectious entry.

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  • 1Department of General Virology, Heinrich-Pette-Institut, Hamburg, Germany.


Little is known about cellular determinants essential for human hepatitis B virus infection. Using the duck hepatitis B virus as a model, we first established a sensitive binding assay for both virions and subviral particles and subsequently elucidated the characteristics of the early viral entry steps. The infection itinerary was found to initiate with the attachment of viral particles to a low number of binding sites on hepatocytes (about 10(4) per cell). Virus internalization was fully accomplished in less than 3 h but was then followed by a period of unprecedented length, about 14 h, until completion of nuclear import of the viral genome. Steps subsequent to virus entry depended on both intact microtubules and their dynamic turnover but not on actin cytoskeleton. Notably, cytoplasmic trafficking of viral particles and emergence of nuclear covalently closed circular DNA requires microtubules during entry only at and for specific time periods. Taken together, these data disclose for the first time a series of steps and their kinetics that are essential for the entry of hepatitis B viruses into hepatocytes and are different from those of any other virus reported so far.

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