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J Biol Chem. 2002 Mar 8;277(10):7645-7. Epub 2002 Jan 7.

Antiviral activity of interferon-alpha against hepatitis B virus can be studied in non-hepatic cells and Is independent of MxA.

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Heinrich-Pette-Institut für Experimentelle Virologie und Immunologie an der Universität Hamburg, Martinistrasse 52, 20251 Hamburg, Germany.


It is well established that interferon-alpha can induce non-cytotoxic intracellular suppression of hepatitis B virus replication, but the mechanisms involved are unclear. Cell culture studies to characterize these mechanisms are restricted, in part because hepatitis B virus replicates almost exclusively in liver-derived cells. To overcome this limitation we used a cytomegalovirus promoter-controlled hepatitis B virus expression system, which leads to intracellular viral replication even in non-hepatic cell lines. In this experimental system interferon-alpha treatment specifically suppressed viral replication demonstrating that antiviral activities against hepatitis B virus are not restricted to hepatic cells. Furthermore, the interferon-inducible MxA protein was recently reported to play a key role in the antiviral action of interferon-alpha against hepatitis B virus. Our data demonstrate that interferon-alpha also suppresses hepatitis B virus replication in MxA-deficient HEp2 cells, indicating that MxA is not essential for these activities. Taken together, our data imply that the experimental approach presented can also be adapted to established cell lines which are deficient in parts of the signal transduction pathway or other elements located further downstream, providing important insights into mechanisms specifically suppressing hepatitis B virus.

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