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Keywords:

  • α-fetoprotein;
  • hepatitis B virus;
  • hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • HFH-T2;
  • N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase III (GnT-III)

Abstract

Background and Aim:  UDP-N-acetylglucosamine: α-D-mannoside β-1,4 N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase III (GnT-III) is a key enzyme in N-glycan biosytnesis. Human GnT-III enzyme activity was found to be elevated in the serum of patients with hepatomas and liver cirrhosis and in hepatocellular carcinoma tissues. Therefore, to understand the relationship between the elevation in GnT-III activity and hepatitis B viral (HBV) hepartocarcinogenesis, we investigated GnT-III gene expression in the HBV-infected cells.

Methods:  A cell line, HFH-T1, producing HBV was produced by natural infection of human fetal hepatocytes. A 170-bp band corresponding to the pre-S1 region of HBV was detected in the culture medium by polymerase chain reaction. Virions were also isolated from the culture medium by sucrose density gradient centrifugation. The synthesis of both α-fetoprotein and albumin as an indicator that these cells were functional hepatocytes and the extent of differentiation was examined. Polymerase chain reaction and Western blot analysis using a monoclonal antibody, GT273, which was prepared using human aglycosyl recombinant GnT-III were used for HBV DNA and GnT-III detection.

Results:  Two types of HBV-related particles were secreted into the culture medium; one was a Dane particle (40 nm in size) containing HBV DNA and the other was a subviral hepatitis B surface antigen particle (20 nm in size) that did not contain the viral genome. The secretion from the cell line was diminished by the number of passages and, thus, this cell was renamed as HFH-T2. A decreased level of the HBV was secreted from the cells after a rest period. HFH-T2 cells showed a weak staining for α-fetoprotein and a moderate staining for albumin in the cytoplasm around the nucleus. High levels of a 0.7 kb DNA fragment originating from GnT-III DNA were detected in HFH-T2 cells. Western blot analysis using a monoclonal antibody, GT273, whixh was prepared using human aglycosyl recombinant GnT-III showed a single band, corresponding to Mr 63 kDa, whereas aglycosyl GnT-III showed a band at Mr 53 kDa, with a molecular weight difference of about 10 kDa. This indicates that HFH-T2 cells express glycosylated GnT-III. GnT-III activities were 347.2 ± 53.6 pmol/mg of protein/h in HFH-T2, 276 ± 26.3 in Hep3B, 252.5 ± 23.3 in HepG2 and 30.7 ± 3.4 in NIH-3T3. GnT-III activity was higher in HFH-T2 cells than in the hepatoma cell lines, Hep3B and HepG2.

Conclusion:  A human fetal hepatocyte cell line was transformed by infection with HBV and the cell line expressed high levels of GnT-III as the levels of secretion of HBV decreased. The decrease in HBV secretion from HFH-T2 cells could be due to a high level of expression of GnT-III. Such a cell line could be used to investigate relationships between HBV infection and glycosyltransferase gene expression. Furthermore, this cell line will be useful in future studies on the effect of the expression of GnT-III on other glycosyltransferase.