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Intervirology. 2011;54(6):316-25. doi: 10.1159/000321450. Epub 2011 Jan 14.

Replicative activity of hepatitis B virus is negatively associated with methylation of covalently closed circular DNA in advanced hepatitis B virus infection.

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Department of Medicine, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam, South



The aim of this study was to examine the methylation status of intrahepatic hepatitis B virus (HBV) covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) and to elucidate the possible relationship between the cccDNA methylation and viral replicative activity in patients with HBV-related liver cirrhosis (HBV-LC).


The methylation status of HBV cccDNA was investigated by bisulfite sequencing in nonneoplastic tissues from 12 patients with HBV-LC who underwent surgical resection for combined hepatocellular carcinoma. Clinical, biochemical and virologic factors were evaluated with respect to the degrees of cccDNA methylation. We also examined the effect of methylation of cccDNA on viral transcription by an in vitro transcription assay.


Variable degrees of CpG methylation were present in the HBV cccDNA from patients with HBV-LC. Old age, low serum HBV DNA levels and low virion productivity were significantly associated with elevated cccDNA methylation. Virion productivity of cccDNA was also lower in HepAD38 cells with a higher degree of cccDNA methylation. In vitro transcription assays showed that the transcriptional activity of HBV cccDNA was suppressed by increased methylation of cccDNA.


Increased CpG methylation of cccDNA is associated with old age, low serum HBV DNA levels and suppressed replicative activity in HBV-LC.

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