Isolation of highly purified, functional carboxy-terminally truncated hepatitis B virus middle surface protein activators from eucaryotic expression systems



Carboxy-terminally truncated hepatitis B virus (HBV) middle surface proteins (MHBst) show a transcriptional activator function. Two different subtypes of MHBst activators can be distinguished: an ER-localized type, represented here by MHBst76 (truncated at amino acid 76), and a cytosol-localized type, represented here by MHBst63. To characterize the MHBst activator on the protein level and to analyze posttranslational modifications, we established recombinant baculoviruses encoding for fusion proteins of MHBst76 or MHBst63 and of an amino terminal hexa-his tag. Both proteins could be obtained in high purity by affinity chromatography using Ni-nitrilo-tri-acetate agarose. In addition, 6H-MHBst76 was also isolated from transiently transfected HepG2 cells. Both the Spodoptera frugiperda (Sf9) cell-derived and the HepG2 cell-derived MHBst proteins were found to be unglycosylated. A detailed analysis of Sf9 cell-derived 6H-MHFBst76 by electrospray- ionization mass spectrometry showed that a fraction of this protein is N-terminally acetylated and phosphorylated or sulfated. Electric-field- mediated transfer of the highly purified proteins into reporter cells demonstrated that the isolated proteins are functional transcriptional activators. These experiments further showed that Sf9 cell-derived and HepG2 cell-derived 6H-MHBst do not differ in their functionality. This system allowed production and purification of functional 6H-MHBst in amounts sufficient enough to allow a further detailed analysis of MHBst activators on the protein level.