Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) is the agent responsible for the most severe form of human viral hepatitis. The HDV genome consists of a single-stranded circular RNA molecule that encodes for one single protein, the delta antigen. Given its simplicity, HDV must make use of several host cellular proteins to accomplish its life cycle processes, including transcription, replication, post-transcriptional, and post-translational modifications. Consequently, identification of the interactions established between HDV components and host proteins assumes a pivotal interest in the search of novel therapeutic targets. Here, we used the yeast three-hybrid system to screen a human liver cDNA library to identify host proteins that interact with the HDV genomic RNA. One of the identified proteins corresponded to the splicing factor SF3B155, a component of the U2snRNP complex that is essential for the early recognition of 3' splice sites in the pre-mRNAs of human genes. We show that the interaction between the HDV genomic RNA and SF3B155 occurs in vivo and that the expression of HDV promotes changes in splicing of human genes whose alternative splicing is SF3B155-dependent. We further show that expression of HDV triggers alterations in several constitutive and alternative splicing events in the tumor suppressor RBM5 transcript, with consequent reduction of its protein levels. This is the first description that HDV expression promotes changes in the splicing of human genes, and we suggest that the HDV-induced alternative splicing changes, through SF3B155 sequester, may contribute for the early progression to hepatocellular carcinoma characteristic of HDV-infected patients.
- Hepatitis delta virus
- Hepatocellular carcinoma