Alpha-interferon suppresses hepadnavirus transcription by altering epigenetic modification of cccDNA minichromosomes.
ABSTRACT: Covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) of hepadnaviruses exists as an episomal minichromosome in the nucleus of infected hepatocyte and serves as the transcriptional template for viral mRNA synthesis. Elimination of cccDNA is the prerequisite for either a therapeutic cure or immunological resolution of HBV infection. Although accumulating evidence suggests that inflammatory cytokines-mediated cure of virally infected hepatocytes does occur and plays an essential role in the resolution of an acute HBV infection, the molecular mechanism by which the cytokines eliminate cccDNA and/or suppress its transcription remains elusive. This is largely due to the lack of convenient cell culture systems supporting efficient HBV infection and cccDNA formation to allow detailed molecular analyses. In this study, we took the advantage of a chicken hepatoma cell line that supports tetracycline-inducible duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) replication and established an experimental condition mimicking the virally infected hepatocytes in which DHBV pregenomic (pg) RNA transcription and DNA replication are solely dependent on cccDNA. This cell culture system allowed us to demonstrate that cccDNA transcription required histone deacetylase activity and IFN-? induced a profound and long-lasting suppression of cccDNA transcription, which required protein synthesis and was associated with the reduction of acetylated histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9) and 27 (H3K27) in cccDNA minichromosomes. Moreover, IFN-? treatment also induced a delayed response that appeared to accelerate the decay of cccDNA. Our studies have thus shed light on the molecular mechanism by which IFN-? noncytolytically controls hepadnavirus infection.
Project description:HBV infection remains a leading cause of death worldwide. IFN-? inhibits viral replication in vitro and in vivo, and pegylated IFN-? is a commonly administered treatment for individuals infected with HBV. The HBV genome contains a typical IFN-stimulated response element (ISRE), but the molecular mechanisms by which IFN-? suppresses HBV replication have not been established in relevant experimental systems. Here, we show that IFN-? inhibits HBV replication by decreasing the transcription of pregenomic RNA (pgRNA) and subgenomic RNA from the HBV covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) minichromosome, both in cultured cells in which HBV is replicating and in mice whose livers have been repopulated with human hepatocytes and infected with HBV. Administration of IFN-? resulted in cccDNA-bound histone hypoacetylation as well as active recruitment to the cccDNA of transcriptional corepressors. IFN-? treatment also reduced binding of the STAT1 and STAT2 transcription factors to active cccDNA. The inhibitory activity of IFN-? was linked to the IRSE, as IRSE-mutant HBV transcribed less pgRNA and could not be repressed by IFN-? treatment. Our results identify a molecular mechanism whereby IFN-? mediates epigenetic repression of HBV cccDNA transcriptional activity, which may assist in the development of novel effective therapeutics.
Project description:Current therapeutic strategies cannot eradicate hepatitis B virus covalently closed circular DNA (HBV cccDNA), which accounts for the persistence of HBV infection. Very recently, the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/CRISPR?associated protein 9 (Cas9) system has been used as an efficient and powerful tool for viral genome editing. Given that the primary duck hepatocyte (PDH) infected with duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) has been widely used to study human HBV infection in vitro, the present study aimed to demonstrate the targeted inhibition of DHBV DNA, especially cccDNA, by the CRISPR/Cas9 system using this model. We designed six single?guide RNAs (sgRNA1?6) targeting the DHBV genome. The sgRNA/Cas9 plasmid was transfected into DHBV?infected PDHs, and then DHBV total DNA (in culture medium and PDHs) and cccDNA were quantified by reverse transcription?quantitative polymerase chain reaction. The combined inhibition of CRISPR/Cas9 system and entecavir (ETV) was also assessed. Two sgRNAs, sgRNA4 and sgRNA6, exhibited efficient inhibition on DHBV total DNA (77.23 and 86.51%, respectively), cccDNA (75.67 and 85.34%, respectively) in PDHs, as well as DHBV total DNA in the culture medium (62.17 and 59.52%, respectively). The inhibition remained or enhanced from day 5 to day 9 following transfection. The combination of the CRISPR/Cas9 system and ETV further increased the inhibitory effect on DHBV total DNA in PDHs and culture medium, but not cccDNA. The CRISPR/Cas9 system has the potential to be a useful tool for the suppression of DHBV DNA.
Project description:Hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes chronic infections that cannot yet be cured. The virus persists in infected hepatocytes, because covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA), the template for the transcription of viral RNAs, is stable in nondividing cells. Antiviral therapies with nucleoside analogues inhibit HBV DNA synthesis in capsids in the cytoplasm of infected hepatocytes, but do not destroy nuclear cccDNA. Because over 200 million people are still infected, a cure for chronic hepatitis B (CHB) has become one of the major challenges in antiviral therapy. As a first step toward the development of curative therapies, we previously demonstrated that the CRISPR/Cas9 system can be used to functionally inactivate cccDNA derived from infectious HBV. Moreover, some evidence suggests that certain cytokines might induce an APOBEC-mediated cascade leading to the destruction of cccDNA. In this report we investigated whether a combination of the two mechanisms could act synergistically to inactivate cccDNA. Using next generation sequencing (NGS), we determined the complete spectrum of mutations in cccDNA following Cas9 cleavage and repair by nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ). We found that over 90% of HBV DNA was cleaved by Cas9. In addition our results showed that editing of HBV DNA after Cas9 cleavage is at least 15,000 times more efficient that APOBEC-mediated cytosine deamination following treatment of infected cells with interferon alpha (IFN?). We also found that a previously used method to detect cytosine deaminated DNA, termed 3D-PCR, overestimates the amount and frequency of edited HBV DNA. Taken together, our results demonstrated that the CRISPR/Cas9 system is so far the best method to functionally inactivate HBV cccDNA and provide a cure for CHB.
Project description:There is no cure for the more than 270 million people chronically infected with HBV. Nucleos(t)ide analogs (NUCs), the mainstay of anti-HBV treatment, block HBV reverse transcription. NUCs do not eliminate the intranuclear covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA), from which viral RNAs, including pregenomic RNA (pgRNA), are transcribed. A key gap in designing a cure is understanding how NUCs affect HBV replication and transcription because serum markers yield an incomplete view of intrahepatic HBV. We applied single-cell laser capture microdissection and droplet digital PCR to paired liver biopsies collected from 5 HBV/HIV-coinfected persons who took NUCs over 2-4 years. From biopsy 1 to 2, proportions of HBV-infected hepatocytes declined with adherence to NUC treatment (P < 0.05); we extrapolated that eradication of HBV will take over 10 decades with NUCs in these participants. In individual hepatocytes, pgRNA levels diminished 28- to 73-fold during NUC treatment, corresponding with decreased tissue HBV core antigen staining (P < 0.01). In 4 out of 5 participants, hepatocytes with cccDNA but undetectable pgRNA (transcriptionally inactive) were present, and these were enriched in 3 participants during NUC treatment. Further work to unravel mechanisms of cccDNA transcriptional inactivation may lead to therapies that can achieve this in all hepatocytes, resulting in a functional cure.
Project description:Interferon gamma (IFN-gamma), which has been cloned in several mammalian species and recently in birds, plays a critical role in modulating immune system function. IFN-gamma and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) have been shown to be crucial in the pathogenesis of viral hepatitis and in the transient disappearance of hepatitis B virus (HBV) from the liver after adoptive transfer of HBV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes into HBV-transgenic mice. Similar studies in the natural animal hosts of related hepadnaviruses have been limited because the corresponding probes and recombinant cytokines were not available. For this reason, we initiated studies to clone and characterize cytokines from the duck, the natural host of the duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV). We describe here the cDNA cloning and initial characterization of the IFN-gamma homologue of ducks (DuIFN-gamma). The DuIFN-gamma cDNA codes for a predicted mature protein of 145 amino acids with a molecular mass of 16.6 kDa. The precursor protein has 67% identity with the previously cloned chicken IFN-gamma and 21 to 34% identity with mammalian IFN-gamma. Recombinant DuIFN-gamma induces the transcription of several IFN-inducible genes including IFN regulatory factor 1 and guanylate-binding protein, and it exhibits antiviral activity that protects duck cells from vesicular stomatitis virus-mediated lysis. Importantly, treatment of primary duck hepatocytes with recombinant DuIFN-gamma inhibits DHBV replication in a dose-dependent fashion. Time course analysis revealed that IFN-gamma treatment does not affect initial covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) conversion but inhibits the synthesis of progeny cccDNA by amplification.
Project description:BACKGROUND & AIMS:Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major health concern worldwide. Although currently used nucleos(t)ide analogs efficiently inhibit viral replication, viral proteins transcribed from the episomal viral covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) minichromosome continue to be expressed long-term. Because high viral RNA or antigen loads may play a biological role during this chronicity, the elimination of viral products is an ultimate goal of HBV treatment. HBV regulatory protein X (HBx) was recently found to promote transcription of cccDNA with degradation of Smc5/6 through the interaction of HBx with the host protein DDB1. Here, this protein-protein interaction was considered as a new molecular target of HBV treatment. METHODS:To identify candidate compounds that target the HBx-DDB1 interaction, a newly constructed split luciferase assay system was applied to comprehensive compound screening. The effects of the identified compounds on HBV transcription and cccDNA maintenance were determined using HBV minicircle DNA, which mimics HBV cccDNA, and the natural HBV infection model of human primary hepatocytes. RESULTS:We show that nitazoxanide (NTZ), a thiazolide anti-infective agent that has been approved by the FDA for protozoan enteritis, efficiently inhibits the HBx-DDB1 protein interaction. NTZ significantly restores Smc5 protein levels and suppresses viral transcription and viral protein production in the HBV minicircle system and in human primary hepatocytes naturally infected with HBV. CONCLUSIONS:These results indicate that NTZ, which targets an HBV-related viral-host protein interaction, may be a promising new therapeutic agent and a step toward a functional HBV cure.
Project description:Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection remains a major public health concern worldwide with 240 million individuals chronically infected and at risk of developing cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Current treatments rarely cure chronic hepatitis B infection, highlighting the need for new anti-HBV drugs. Nucleic acid polymers (NAPs) are phosphorothioated oligonucleotides that have demonstrated a great potential to inhibit infection with several viruses. In chronically infected human patients, NAPs administration lead to a decline of blood HBsAg and HBV DNA and to HBsAg seroconversion, the expected signs of functional cure. NAPs have also been shown to prevent infection of duck hepatocytes with the Avihepadnavirus duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) and to exert an antiviral activity against established DHBV infection in vitro and in vivo. In this study, we investigated the specific anti-HBV antiviral activity of NAPs in the HepaRG human hepatoma cell line and primary cultures of human hepatocytes. NAPs with different chemical features (phosphorothioation, 2'O-methyl ribose, 5-methylcytidine) were assessed for antiviral activity when provided at the time of HBV inoculation or post-inoculation. NAPs dose-dependently inhibited HBV entry in a phosphorothioation-dependent, sequence-independent and size-dependent manner. This inhibition of HBV entry by NAPs was impaired by 2'O-methyl ribose modification. NAP treatment after viral inoculation did not elicit any antiviral activity.
Project description:Persistence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection requires covalently closed circular (ccc)DNA formation and amplification, which can occur via intracellular recycling of the viral polymerase-linked relaxed circular (rc) DNA genomes present in virions. Here we reveal a fundamental difference between HBV and the related duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) in the recycling mechanism. Direct comparison of HBV and DHBV cccDNA amplification in cross-species transfection experiments showed that, in the same human cell background, DHBV but not HBV rcDNA converts efficiently into cccDNA. By characterizing the distinct forms of HBV and DHBV rcDNA accumulating in the cells we find that nuclear import, complete versus partial release from the capsid and complete versus partial removal of the covalently bound polymerase contribute to limiting HBV cccDNA formation; particularly, we identify genome region-selectively opened nuclear capsids as a putative novel HBV uncoating intermediate. However, the presence in the nucleus of around 40% of completely uncoated rcDNA that lacks most if not all of the covalently bound protein strongly suggests a major block further downstream that operates in the HBV but not DHBV recycling pathway. In summary, our results uncover an unexpected contribution of the virus to cccDNA formation that might help to better understand the persistence of HBV infection. Moreover, efficient DHBV cccDNA formation in human hepatoma cells should greatly facilitate experimental identification, and possibly inhibition, of the human cell factors involved in the process.
Project description:Previous studies have demonstrated that nucleic acid polymers (NAPs) have both entry and post-entry inhibitory activity against duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) infection. The inhibitory activity exhibited by NAPs prevented DHBV infection of primary duck hepatocytes in vitro and protected ducks from DHBV infection in vivo and did not result from direct activation of the immune response. In the current study treatment of primary human hepatocytes with NAP REP 2055 did not induce expression of the TNF, IL6, IL10, IFNA4 or IFNB1 genes, confirming the lack of direct immunostimulation by REP 2055. Ducks with persistent DHBV infection were treated with NAP 2055 to determine if the post-entry inhibitory activity exhibited by NAPs could provide a therapeutic effect against established DHBV infection in vivo. In all REP 2055-treated ducks, 28 days of treatment lead to initial rapid reductions in serum DHBsAg and DHBV DNA and increases in anti-DHBs antibodies. After treatment, 6/11 ducks experienced a sustained virologic response: DHBsAg and DHBV DNA remained at low or undetectable levels in the serum and no DHBsAg or DHBV core antigen positive hepatocytes and only trace amounts of DHBV total and covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) were detected in the liver at 9 or 16 weeks of follow-up. In the remaining 5/11 REP 2055-treated ducks, all markers of DHBV infection rapidly rebounded after treatment withdrawal: At 9 and 16 weeks of follow-up, levels of DHBsAg and DHBcAg and DHBV total and cccDNA in the liver had rebounded and matched levels observed in the control ducks treated with normal saline which remained persistently infected with DHBV. These data demonstrate that treatment with the NAP REP 2055 can lead to sustained control of persistent DHBV infection. These effects may be related to the unique ability of REP 2055 to block release of DHBsAg from infected hepatocytes.
Project description:The therapeutic management of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections remains challenging, and novel antiviral strategies are urgently required. The HBV transbody, a monoclonal antibody (MAb) against human HBcAg coupled with the trans-activator of transcription protein transduction domain (TAT PTD), was previously shown to possess cell-penetrating ability and potent antiviral activity in vitro. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the antiviral activity of the HBcMAb-TAT PTD conjugate in vivo in a duck model of HBV.Female Peking ducks were injected i.p. with 0.03-0.3 mg·kg-1 ·day-1 of the DHBV transbody (DHBcMAb-TAT PTD conjugate) for 30 days. Serum DHBV DNA levels and liver DHBV DNA and covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) loads were determined at scheduled time points. Immunohistological examination of DHBcAg in the duck liver was also performed.The DHBV transbody significantly reduced the serum and liver DHBV DNA levels at doses of 0.1 and 0.3 mg·kg-1 ·day-1 and liver cccDNA levels at a dose of 0.3 mg·kg-1 ·day-1 after 30 days of treatment. The suppressive effects of the DHBV transbody at 0.3 mg·kg-1 ·day-1 on the serum and liver DHBV DNA and liver cccDNA levels remained significant, even at 15 days after treatment cessation. Similarly, immunohistochemistry of liver sections revealed decreased DHBcAg levels within hepatocytes 15 days after treatment termination.The DHBV transbody inhibits DHBV replication and possesses potent anti-DHBV activities in vivo. The cell-permeable antibody against the virus core antigen may be developed as a novel treatment for patients with hepadnavirus infections.