Objective: To observe the hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication in the tree shrews that were inoculated with HBV at neonatal period.
Methods: Six new-born tree shrews were inoculated with human HBV positive serum. Blood samples and liver biopsies were collected at different time points after inoculation. The HBV infection markers were tested by nested polymerase chain reaction (nPCR), fluorescence quantitative polymerase chain reaction (FQ-PCR), Southern blot, ELISA and immunohistochemistry staining. The liver tissues were observed under electron and light microscope.
Results: 48 weeks after inoculation, HBV DNA and HBV cccDNA were detected in the serum and liver samples of three animals (number 1, 2 and 6) by nPCR. The copy-numbers of HBV DNA detected by FQ-PCR in their serum and liver samples were 103 and-104/ml respectively,and the total DNA in 1microg liver tissue was 107-108. Southern blot indicated that HBV replication intermediates such as HBV cccDNA and HBV ssDNA was detectable in liver tissues. HBsAg was detected by ELISA, and immunohistochemical staining showed a gradual increase of HBsAg-positive liver cells. High copy number of HBV DNA and suspected HBV EM particles could be detected in the liver samples from one of the three animals that have survived more than 2 years after inoculation. The other three animals showed low HBV DNA copy number, and the rest of the signs of HBV infection were negative or transiently positive.
Conclusions: Neonatal tree shrews can be infected with human HBV. HBV can replicate inside the liver cells of tree shrew.