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J Virol. 2018 Feb 7. pii: JVI.02007-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02007-17. [Epub ahead of print]

Hepatitis B virus DNA integration occurs early in the viral life cycle in an in vitro infection model via NTCP-dependent uptake of enveloped virus particles.

Author information

1
Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, Heidelberg Hospital University, Germany Thomas.Tu@med.uni-heidelberg.de.
2
Centenary Institute, The University of Sydney, Australia.
3
Regenerative Medicine and Experimental Surgery (ReMediES), Department of General, Visceral and Transplantation Surgery, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.
4
German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), partner site Hannover-Braunschweig, Hannover, Germany.
5
South Western Sydney Clinical School, University of New South Wales, Australia.
6
Liverpool Hospital, Gastroenterology, Sydney, Australia.
7
Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, Heidelberg Hospital University, Germany.
8
German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), Partner Site Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Abstract

Chronic infection by the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) is the major contributor to liver disease worldwide. Though HBV replicates via a nuclear episomal DNA (cccDNA), integration of HBV DNA into the host cell genome is regularly observed in the liver of infected patients. While reported as a pro-oncogenic alteration, the mechanism(s) and timing of HBV DNA integration are not well-understood, chiefly due to the lack of in vitro infection models that have detectable integration events. Here, we have established an in vitro system in which integration can be reliably detected following HBV infection. We measured HBV DNA integration using inverse nested PCR in primary human hepatocytes, HepaRG-NTCP, HepG2-NTCP, and Huh7-NTCP cells after HBV infection. Integration was detected in all cell types at a rate of >1 per 10000 cells, with the most consistent detection in Huh7-NTCP cells. Integration rate remained stable between 3 and 9 days post-infection. HBV DNA integration was efficiently blocked by treatment with 200nM of the HBV entry inhibitor Myrcludex B, but not with 10μM Tenofovir, 100U Interferon alpha, or 1μM of the capsid assembly inhibitor GLS4. This suggests integration of HBV DNA occurs immediately after infection of hepatocytes and is likely independent of de novo HBV replication in this model. Site analysis revealed that HBV DNA integrations were distributed over the entire human genome. Further, integrated HBV DNA sequences were consistent with double-stranded linear HBV DNA being the major precursor. Thus, we have established an in vitro system to interrogate the mechanisms of HBV DNA integration.ImportanceHepatitis B Virus (HBV) is a common blood-borne pathogen and, following a chronic infection, can cause liver cancer and liver cirrhosis. Integration of HBV DNA into the host genome occurs in all known members of the hepadnaviridae family, despite this form not being necessary for viral replication. HBV DNA integration has been reported to drive liver cancer formation and persistence of virus infection. However, when and the mechanism(s) by which HBV DNA integration occurs is not clear. Here, we have developed and characterized an in vitro system to reliably detect HBV DNA integrations that result from a true HBV infection event and that closely resemble those found in patient tissues. Using this model, we show that integration already occurs when the infection is first established. Importantly, we provide here a system to analyze molecular factors involved in HBV integration, which can be used to develop strategies to halt its formation.

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