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Characterization of IL-21-expressing recombinant hepatitis B virus (HBV) as a therapeutic agent targeting persisting HBV infection.

ABSTRACT: Chronic infection by hepatitis B virus (HBV) is associated with high risks of liver fibrosis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. In mouse models of HBV persistence, interleukin 21 (IL-21) has been identified as a potent inducer of viral clearance. Strict hepatotropism makes recombinant HBV (rHBV) vectors ideal for liver-targeting gene delivery. Previously, we established an rHBV vector termed 5c3c, which is highly replicative by itself, but requires HBV envelope proteins provided in trans to produce virions. 5c3c-based rHBV virions are capable of delivering cargo gene expression driven by HBV Sp1 promoter into infected hepatocytes. In this work, we explore the feasibility of using 5c3c-derived rHBV for liver-specific delivery of IL-21 as treatment of chronic HBV infection. Methods: 5c3c-derived rHBV replicons harboring mouse or human IL-21 genes (termed 5c3c-mIL-21 and 5c3c-hIL-21 respectively) were constructed and then tested for the production of rHBV virions in vitro and in vivo. 5c3c-mIL-21's anti-HBV effects were determined in chronic HBV mouse model. Furthermore, superinfection by rHBV virions was analysed using HBV-infected HepG2/NTCP cells and human liver chimeric mice. Results: 5c3c-mIL-21 and 5c3c-hIL-21 were efficiently replicative and produced enveloped virions when provided with envelope proteins, both in vitro and in vivo. In mouse model of HBV persistence, IL-21 expressed from injected 5c3c-mIL-21 replicon induced complete viral clearance. 5c3c-mIL-21 and 5c3c-hIL-21 virions could infect HepG2/NTCP cells and engender sustained IL-21 expression. Most importantly, IL-21-expressing rHBV virions could superinfect HBV-infected HepG2/NTCP cells and human hepatocytes in human liver chimeric mice, and engender sustained IL-21 expression and rHBV production. Conclusion: These data suggest the high potential of 5c3c-derived IL-21-expressing rHBV as a novel therapeutic against chronic HBV infection.


PROVIDER: S-EPMC7196313 | BioStudies | 2020-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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