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Emerg Microbes Infect. 2013 Sep;2(9):e56. doi: 10.1038/emi.2013.56. Epub 2013 Sep 4.

Hepatitis B virus reverse transcriptase: diverse functions as classical and emerging targets for antiviral intervention.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The Penn State University College of Medicine, Hershey , PA 17033, USA.


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection remains a global health problem with over 350 million chronically infected, causing an increased risk of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Current antiviral chemotherapy for HBV infection include five nucleos(t)ide analog reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) that all target one enzymatic activity, DNA strand elongation, of the HBV polymerase (HP), a specialized reverse transcriptase (RT). NRTIs are not curative and long-term treatment is associated with toxicity and the emergence of drug resistant viral mutations, which can also result in vaccine escape. Recent studies on the multiple functions of HP have provided important mechanistic insights into its diverse roles during different stages of viral replication, including interactions with viral pregenomic RNA, RNA packaging into nucleocapsids, protein priming, minus- and plus-strand viral DNA synthesis, RNase H-mediated degradation of viral RNA, as well as critical host interactions that regulate the multiple HP functions. These diverse functions provide ample opportunities to develop novel HP-targeted antiviral treatments that should contribute to curing chronic HBV infection.


Hepadnavirus; RNA packaging; RNase H; hepatitis B virus; protein priming; reverse transcriptase; review

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