Antisense oligonucleotides targeted against asialoglycoprotein receptor 1 block human hepatitis B virus replication


Shengqi Wang, Beijing Institute of Radiation Medicine, Beijing, 100850, China. E-mail:


Summary.  Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major worldwide public health problem. Better therapeutics and treatment strategies are urgently needed because of ineffective clinical treatment. Our previous study showed that asialoglycoprotein receptor 1 (ASGPR1) was upregulated by HBV but downregulated by lamivudine in HepG2.2.15 cells. It has also been reported that ASGPR is a candidate receptor for HBV attachment to hepatocytes. Therefore, as a major subunit of ASGPR, ASGPR1, might be a potential target for anti-HBV drugs. To validate this hypothesis, antisense oligonucleiotides (ASODNs) were used to downregulate ASGPR1 level in HepG2.2.15 cells. By using the MFOLD web server and BLAST searches, five ASODNs theoretically targeting ASGPR1 were selected. After 72 h post-transfection, HBV-DNA level in cell medium were examined by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and Hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) were detected using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). ASGPR1 mRNA and protein level were measured by semi-quantitative reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR and Western blot analysis respectively. The results showed that ASODN2 significantly downregulated ASGPR1 level. It also reduced HBV-DNA, HBsAg and HBeAg level in cell medium as observed with lamivudine. In contrast, the sense sequence and scrambled sequence of ASODN2 had no effect on ASGPR1 and HBV markers in HepG2.2.15 cells. This indicated that ASODN2 could specifically reduce HBV replication in vitro. Additionally, cell proliferation and apoptosis assay suggested that downregulation of ASGPR1 did not affect cell viability. We, therefore, proposed that ASODNs targeted against ASGPR1 could block HBV replication without the influence of other changes, and ASGPR1 could be targeted for anti-HBV drug development.