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J Immunol. 1991 Nov 1;147(9):3156-60.

Molecular heterogeneity of e antigen polypeptides in sera from carriers of hepatitis B virus.

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Department of Public Health, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, Shizuoka-Ken, Japan.


Hepatitis B e Ag (HBeAg) was isolated from pooled sera of carriers, without abnormalities in liver function, by affinity column chromatography with mAb against HBeAg. HBeAg polypeptide with an estimated molecular size of 20,000 Da (p20e) was detected, in addition to regular HBeAg polypeptides (p17e/p18e). p20e, as well as p17e/p18e, did not bind with mAb against the carboxyl-terminal domain of the C-gene product. p20e disclosed an N-terminal sequence of MQLFHLXLII- (X unknown), whereas p17e had that of SKLXLGXLXGMDIDPXKEFG- (X's unknown). By comparing them with the amino acid sequence encoded by the precore region and C gene of hepatitis B virus DNA, p20e was deduced to possess amino acids 1 to 19 of the precore-region product at the N-terminus, which contains signal sequence and usually removed before the secretion of HBeAg. p17e had amino acids 20 to 29 of the precore-region product that continued to the C-gene product. Inasmuch as p20e was invariably detected in HBeAg preparations from carriers without evidence for liver disease, it would not have been released into the circulation from destructed hepatocytes. HBeAg polypeptide bearing an uncleaved signal sequence would help in further understanding the mechanism of HBeAg secretion.

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