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J Virol. 1987 Nov;61(11):3448-53.

Transcriptional trans-activating function of hepatitis B virus.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis 46223.


The ability of hepatitis B virus (HBV) to stimulate the expression of a cellular gene was investigated by using a transient-expression system. A plasmid in which the expression of the bacterial chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (cat) gene had been placed under the control of the DNA sequences that regulate the expression of the human beta-interferon gene was constructed. In Vero cells, cotransfection of the 2.7-kilobase BglII DNA fragment of HBV together with the test plasmid containing the cat gene resulted in stimulation of the expression of the cat gene. This HBV DNA fragment was specific in its trans-activation; no significant stimulation of CAT activity was observed in constructs when the promoter and enhancer elements were derived from the murine sarcoma viral long terminal repeat, Rous sarcoma virus, BK virus, or simian virus 40. Results of subcloning of the HBV DNA fragment indicate that the trans-activating function resides in a 944-base-pair EcoRV-BglII DNA fragment of the HBV genome that contains the X structural gene and its promoter element. Removal of the promoter from the X structural gene resulted in loss of the trans-activating function. A frameshift mutation within the X gene region also eliminated the trans-activating activity. These results suggest that the X antigen could play a role in HBV infections by activating the expression of cellular genes.

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