Characterization of a hepatitis B and hepatitis delta virus receptor binding site


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Insights into the early infection events of the human hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis delta virus (HDV) have been limited because of the lack of a cell culture system supporting the full replication cycle for these important pathogens. The human hepatoma cell line HepaRG allows the experimental induction of a differentiated state, thereby gaining susceptibility toward HBV and HDV infection. We recently identified HBV envelope protein–derived lipopeptides comprising amino acids 2 though 48 of the preS-domain of the L-surface protein, which block infection already at picomolar concentrations. To map the responsible sequence for the peptides' activity we describe an Escherichia coli expression system that permits myristoylation and investigated recombinant HBVpreS-GST fusion proteins with deletion- and point-mutations for their ability to prevent HBV and HDV infection. We found that (1) a myristoylated HBVpreS/2-48-GST fusion protein efficiently interferes with HBV infection of HepaRG cells; (2) deletions and point mutations in the highly conserved preS1 sequence between amino acids 11 through 21 result in the loss of infection inhibition activity; (3) hepatitis B viruses carrying single amino acid exchanges within this region lose infectivity; and (4) HDV infection of HepaRG cells can be inhibited by myristoylated HBVpreS peptides with the same specificity. In conclusion, HBV and HDV use at least one common step to enter hepatocytes and require a highly conserved preS1-sequence within the L-protein. This step is exceptionally sensitive toward inactivation by acylated HBVpreS1 peptides, which therefore represent a novel group of entry inhibitors that could be used for the treatment of hepatitis B and D. (HEPATOLOGY 2006;43:750–760.)