A long HBV transcript encoding pX is inefficiently exported from the nucleus

Virology. 2003 May 10;309(2):339-49. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6822(03)00156-9.


The longest hepatitis B virus transcript is a 3.9-kb mRNA whose function remained unclear. In this study, we wished to identify the translation products and physiological role of this viral transcript. This transcript initiates from the X promoter region ignoring the inefficient and noncanonical viral polyadenylation signal at the first round of transcription. However, an HBV mutant with canonical polyadenylation signal continues, though with lower efficiency, to program the synthesis of this long transcript, indicating that the deviated HBV polyadenylation signal is important but not essential to enable transcription of the 3.9-kb species. The 3.9-kb RNA contains two times the X open reading frame (ORF). The X ORF at the 5'-end is positioned upstream of the CORE gene. By generating an HBV DNA mutant in which the X and Core ORFs are fused, we demonstrated the production of a 40-kDa X-Core fusion protein that must be encoded by the 3.9-kb transcript. Mutagenesis studies revealed that the production of this protein depends on the 5' X ORF ATG, suggesting that the 3.9-kb RNA is active in translation of the X ORF. Based on these features, the 3.9-kb transcript was designated lxRNA for long X RNA. Unlike other HBV transcripts, lxRNA harbors two copies of PRE, the posttranscriptional regulatory element that controls the nuclear export of HBV mRNAs. Unexpectedly, despite the presence of PRE sequences, RNA fractionation analysis revealed that lxRNA barely accumulates in the cytoplasm, suggesting that nuclear export of lxRNA is poor. Collectively, our data suggest that two distinct HBV mRNA species encode pX and that the HBV transcripts are differentially regulated at the level of nuclear export.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • DNA, Viral
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics
  • Hepatitis B virus / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Poly A / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Templates, Genetic
  • Trans-Activators / genetics*
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • DNA, Viral
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Viral
  • Trans-Activators
  • hepatitis B virus X protein
  • Poly A