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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1998 Aug;42(8):2128-31.

The M539V polymerase variant of human hepatitis B virus demonstrates resistance to 2'-deoxy-3'-thiacytidine and a reduced ability to synthesize viral DNA.

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  • 1Avid Therapeutics, Inc., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


The cytosine analog 2'-deoxy-3'-thiacytidine (3TC) has been shown to be an effective treatment for chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. However, several liver transplant patients who were undergoing treatment with 3TC for HBV infection experienced a breakthrough of virus while on 3TC. The predominant virus found in these patients' sera contained either a valine or isoleucine for the methionine in the highly conserved YMDD nucleotide binding site in the HBV polymerase. To determine the biological relevance of the Met-to-Val substitution, we mutated a plasmid that contained a cDNA copy of the HBV pregenomic RNA such that when virus replication occurred during transient transfection of HepG2 cells, an M539V polymerase variant was produced. We found that in transiently transfected cells, this variant was approximately 330-fold less sensitive to the antiviral effects of 3TC and produced 7-fold less viral DNA than the wild type.

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