Background/aims: Transplantation of primary human hepatocytes and establishment of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in immunodeficient urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) transgenic mice was shown. However, the availability of usable primary human hepatocytes is very limited. Therefore, alternative and more accessible sources of hepatocytes permissive for HBV infection are highly desirable. Here we investigated the potential of primary hepatocytes from the tree shrew Tupaia belangeri that were shown to be susceptible to HBV infection.
Methods: Freshly isolated or cryopreserved primary tupaia hepatocytes were transplantated via intrasplenic injection into immunodeficient uPA/RAG-2 mice. Engrafted mice were then infected with HBV and woolly monkey (WM)-HBV positive sera.
Results: Extensive proliferation of xenografted cells was demonstrated by the stable production of tupaia alpha1-antitrypsin in serum and liver of transplanted mice. Quantitative PCR assays demonstrated the presence of circulating viral particles as well as intracellular viral DNA, including covalently closed circular (ccc) DNA, in transplanted mice. Viral infection could be serially passaged in mice. Furthermore, viral replication was strongly inhibited by treating mice with adefovir dipivoxil.
Conclusions: uPA mice repopulated with tupaia hepatocytes represent a useful and more accessible model for HBV infection studies, including the evaluation of antiviral therapy and cccDNA.