Interferon-inducible expression of APOBEC3 editing enzymes in human hepatocytes and inhibition of hepatitis B virus replication


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Hypermutations in hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA by APOBEC3 cytidine deaminases have been detected in vitro and in vivo, and APOBEC3G (A3G) and APOBEC3F (A3F) have been shown to inhibit the replication of HBV in vitro, but the presumably low or even absent hepatic expression of these enzymes has raised the question as to their physiological impact on HBV replication. We show that normal human liver expresses the mRNAs of APOBEC3B (A3B), APOBEC3C (A3C), A3F, and A3G. In primary human hepatocytes, interferon alpha (IFN-α) stimulated the expression of these cytidine deaminases up to 14-fold, and the mRNAs of A3G, A3F, and A3B reached expression levels of 10%, 3%, and 3%, respectively, relative to GAPDH mRNA abundance. On transfection, the full-length protein A3BL inhibited HBV replication in vitro as efficiently as A3G or A3F, whereas the truncated splice variant A3BS and A3C had no effect. A3BL and A3BS were detected predominantly in the nucleus of uninfected cells; however, in HBV-expressing cells both proteins were found also in the cytoplasm and were associated with HBV viral particles, similarly to A3G and A3F. Moreover, A3G, A3F, and A3BL, but not A3BS, induced extensive G-to-A hypermutations in a fraction of the replicated HBV genomes. In conclusion, the editing enzymes A3BL, A3F, and most markedly A3G, which are expressed in liver and up-regulated by IFN-α in hepatocytes, are candidates to contribute to the noncytolytic clearance of HBV. (HEPATOLOGY 2006;43:1364–1374.)