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J Virol. 1993 Jan;67(1):366-72.

Role of the large hepatitis B virus envelope protein in infectivity of the hepatitis delta virion.

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Department of Virology and Immunology, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, San Antonio, Texas 78228.


The hepatitis delta virus (HDV) is coated with large (L), middle (M), and small (S) envelope proteins encoded by coinfecting hepatitis B virus (HBV). To study the role of the HBV envelope proteins in the assembly and infectivity of HDV, we produced three types of recombinant particles in Huh7 cells by transfection with HBV DNA and HDV cDNA: (i) particles with an envelope containing the S HBV envelope protein only, (ii) particles with an envelope containing S and M proteins, and (iii) particles with an envelope containing S, M, and L proteins. Although the resulting S-, SM-, and SML-HDV particles contained both hepatitis delta antigen and HDV RNA, only particles coated with all three envelope proteins (SML) showed evidence of infectivity in an in vitro culture system susceptible to HDV infection. We concluded that the L HBV envelope protein, and more specifically the pre-S1 domain, is important for infectivity of HDV particles and that the M protein, which has been reported to bear a site for binding to polymerized albumin in the pre-S2 domain, is not sufficient for infectivity. Our data also show that the helper HBV is not required for initiation of HDV infection. The mechanism by which the L protein may affect HDV infectivity is discussed herein.

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