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Yonsei Med J. 2012 Sep;53(5):875-85. doi: 10.3349/ymj.2012.53.5.875.

Hepatitis B precore protein: pathogenic potential and therapeutic promise.

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  • 1Research and Molecular Development, Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, North Melbourne, Victoria 3051, Australia.


Hepatitis B virus (HBV), a small and economically packaged double-stranded DNA virus, represents an enormous global health care burden. In spite of an effective vaccine, HBV is endemic in many countries. Chronic hepatitis B (CHB) results in the development of significant clinical outcomes such as liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which are associated with high mortality rates. HBV is a non-cytopathic virus, with the host's immune response responsible for the associated liver damage. Indeed, HBV appears to be a master of manipulating and modulating the immune response to achieve persistent and chronic infection. The HBV precore protein or hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) is a key viral protein involved in these processes, for instance though the down-regulation of the innate immune response. The development of new therapies that target viral proteins, such as HBeAg, which regulates of the immune system, may offer a new wave of potential therapeutics to circumvent progression to CHB and liver disease.

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