A natural subviral agent of human hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis delta virus (HDV), requires only the envelope proteins from HBV in order to maintain persistent infection. HBV surface antigens (HBsAgs) can be produced either by HBV replication or from integrated HBV DNA regardless of replication. The functional properties of the integrant-generated HBsAgs were examined using two human hepatocellular carcinoma-derived cell lines, Hep3B and PLC/PRF/5, that contain HBV integrants but do not produce HBV virions and have no signs of HBV replication. Both cell lines were able to support HDV replication and assembly/ egress of HDV virions. Neither of the cell lines was able to produce substantial amounts of the pre-S1-containing HDV particles. HDV virions assembled in PLC/PRF/5 cells were able to infect primary human hepatocytes, while Hep3B-derived HDV appeared to be noninfectious. These results correlate with the findings that the entire open reading frame (ORF) for the large (L) envelope protein that is essential for infectivity is present on HBV RNAs from PLC/PRF/5 cells, while an L protein ORF that was truncated and fused to inverted precore sequences was found using RNAs from Hep3B cells. This study demonstrates for the first time that at least some of the HBV DNA sequence naturally integrated during infection can produce functional small and large envelope proteins capable of the formation of infectious HDV virions. Our data indicate that in vivo chronic HDV infection can persist in the absence of HBV replication (or when HBV replication is profoundly suppressed) if functional envelope proteins are supplied from HBV integrants.
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being