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Mutat Res. 2004 Oct 4;554(1-2):305-18.

Expression of hepatitis B virus X oncoprotein inhibits transcription-coupled nucleotide excision repair in human cells.

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Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, Quebec, Canada HIT 2M4.


The hepatitis B virus X protein (HBx) is implicated in liver cancer development, and this presumably involves its ability to bind and functionally inactivate the p53 tumour suppressor. For example expression of HBx in cultured cells has been shown to inhibit global nucleotide excision repair, a p53-dependent subpathway of nucleotide excision repair (NER) which eliminates helix-distorting DNA adducts, e.g., UV-induced cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs), from the genome overall. However it remains undetermined whether HBx also interferes with transcription-coupled NER (TCNER), another NER subpathway which removes DNA adducts uniquely from the transcribed strand (TS) of active genes. To address this, we employed the model human lymphoblastoid strain TK6 and its isogenic p53-null counterpart NH32, in conjunction with derivatives of these strains constitutively expressing HBx (TK6-HBx and NH32-HBx). Relative to TK6, following exposure to either UVB (290-320 nm) or UVC (254 nm), TK6-HBx, NH32 and NH32-HBx manifested significantly reduced apoptotic capacity to varying degrees, although no striking differences in clonogenic survival between the four strains were observed. As previously documented in our laboratory [Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 100 (2003) 7219-7224], ligation-mediated PCR analysis revealed NH32 to be deficient compared with TK6 in CPD removal along the TS strand of the chromosomal c-jun locus following UVB exposure, but to be proficient in this respect following UVC exposure, i.e., the requirement for p53 in TCNER exhibits wavelength dependence in human cells. Remarkably however, in contrast to the situation for NH32, TK6-HBx and NH32-HBx manifested defective repair along the TS of c-jun after irradiation with either UVB or UVC. The data demonstrate that HBx expression can reduce the efficiency of TCNER in addition to GNER in human cells via p53-independent as well as p53-dependent pathways.

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