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J Hepatol. 1995;22(1 Suppl):34-7.

Transactivation of cellular gene expression by hepatitis B viral proteins: a possible molecular mechanism of hepatocarcinogenesis.

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Department of Medicine II, University of Munich, Germany.


Epidemiologic data indicate the crucial role of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development. On the molecular level, HBV sequences are frequently integrated in hepatocellular DNA. However, in contrast to the woodchuck model, in which specific HBV-DNA integration is detectable in most cases, insertional (in-) activation of cellular genes seems to be a rare event in man. The recent discovery of transactivating functions exerted by HBx and truncated HBs(urface) proteins supports the notion that transactivation of cellular gene expression could be relevant to hepatocarcinogenesis. HBV transactivator sequences are present in 81% (21/26) of HCC tissues or hepatoma-derived cell lines. At least one transactivator protein was functional in all cases investigated so far. The 16.5-kDa HBx transactivator has been shown to stimulate gene expression from various cellular target sequences. In vitro, HBx displays oncogenic potential. A second type of transactivator is encoded in the preS/S region of HBV. In contrast to HBx, HBs transactivators require carboxyterminal truncation to gain their transactivating function. Unlike full-length M(iddle)HBs, the truncated MHBst is retained in the endoplasmic reticulum and not secreted into the surrounding medium. Cellular gene expression is stimulated by regulatory elements of the human proto-oncogenes c-fos and c-myc, as well as by the hepatic acute-phase interleukin-6 gene. Synthetic binding sites for the transcription factors NF-kappa B, AP-1, AP-2, SRE, and Sp1 render minimal promoters activatable. NF-kappa B-mediated transactivation by MHBst can be suppressed by radical scavenging antioxidants, indirectly suggesting that reactive oxygen intermediates are involved.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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