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Hepatology. 1998 Oct;28(4):1013-21.

The hepatitis B virus X protein up-regulates tumor necrosis factor alpha gene expression in hepatocytes.

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Unidades de Biología Molecular y, Hospital de la Princesa, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.


Human hepatocytes infected by hepatitis B virus (HBV) produce the proinflammatory cytokine, tumor necrosis factor (TNF-). In this study, we explored the mechanism of induction of TNF- synthesis by HBV. We found that the stable HBV-transfected hepatoma cell line, 2. 2.15, expressed high-molecular-weight (HMW) TNF- mRNAs, which were absent in the parent HepG2 cells. Treatment of 2.2.15 cells with interferon alfa (IFN-) and/or interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) reduced both viral gene transcription and TNF- mRNA expression. Transient or stable transfection of hepatocyte-derived cell lines with HBV X protein (HBx) expression vectors induced the production of biologically active TNF-. In these cells, the HBx-induced TNF- was detected both as cell-associated and soluble forms. Luciferase gene-expression assays showed that the TNF- gene promoter contained target sequences for HBx trans-activation within the proximal region of the promoter. These results indicate that the hepatocyte TNF- synthesis induced by HBV is transcriptionally up-regulated by HBx. Thus, HBx may have a role in the induction of the intrahepatic inflammatory processes that take place during acute and chronic hepatitis B.

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