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PLoS One. 2015 Dec 14;10(12):e0144775. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144775. eCollection 2015.

The Hepatitis B Virus Genotype Affects the Persistence of Viral Replication in Immunodeficient NOG Mice.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Suita, Osaka, Japan.
Laboratory Animal Research Department, Central Institute for Experimental Animals, Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan.
Department of Microbiology, Yokohama City University School of Medicine, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.



At least eight genotypes of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) have been identified. HBV genotype C is the most common genotype in Japan, although the incidence of HBV genotype A is increasing. The reason underlying the differences in viral multiplication of the HBV genotypes is unclear, especially in vivo. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the differences in HBV load and the persistence of viremia in vivo between genotypes A and C.


Immunodeficient NOG mice were transfected by hydrodynamic injection with the HBV expression plasmids pHBA1.2 or pHBC1.2, which contain overlength (1.2-mer) copies of the genomes of HBV genotype A or C, respectively.


One day after transfection, the number of HBcAg-positive hepatocytes and serum HBV DNA levels were similar between mice transfected with pHBA1.2 and pHBC1.2. Serum levels of HBV DNA, HBsAg and HBeAg in mice transfected with pHBA1.2 were maintained over 5 months. In contrast, those in mice with pHBC1.2 gradually decreased over time and reached undetectable levels within 3 months after transfection. HBcAg-stained hepatocytes were detected in mice transfected with pHBA1.2, but not pHBC1.2, 5 months post-transfection. Double-staining immunohistochemistry revealed that the number of cleaved caspase3-stained, HBcAg-positive hepatocytes in the pHBC1.2-transfected mice was higher than in the pHBA1.2-transfected mice 3 days post-transfection. Moreover, the plasmid DNA and covalently closed circular DNA levels were decreased in the livers of pHBC1.2-transfected mice. These results suggested that hepatocytes expressing HBV genotype C were eliminated by apoptosis in the absence of immune cells more often than in hepatocytes expressing HBV genotype A.


Immunodeficient mice transfected with HBV genotype A develop persistent viremia, whereas those transfected with HBV genotype C exhibit transient viremia accompanied by apoptosis of HBV-expressing hepatocytes. This differences may affect the clinical courses of patients infected with HBV genotypes A and C.

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