Hepatitis B and D viruses exploit sodium taurocholate co-transporting polypeptide for species-specific entry into hepatocytes

Gastroenterology. 2014 Apr;146(4):1070-83. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.12.024. Epub 2013 Dec 19.


Background & aims: Hepatitis B and D viruses (HBV and HDV) are human pathogens with restricted host ranges and high selectivity for hepatocytes; the HBV L-envelope protein interacts specifically with a receptor on these cells. We aimed to identify this receptor and analyze whether it is the recently described sodium-taurocholate co-transporter polypeptide (NTCP), encoded by the SLC10A1 gene.

Methods: To identify receptor candidates, we compared gene expression patterns between differentiated HepaRG cells, which express the receptor, and naïve cells, which do not. Receptor candidates were evaluated by small hairpin RNA silencing in HepaRG cells; the ability of receptor expression to confer binding and infection were tested in transduced hepatoma cell lines. We used interspecies domain swapping to identify motifs for receptor-mediated host discrimination of HBV and HDV binding and infection.

Results: Bioinformatic analyses of comparative expression arrays confirmed that NTCP, which was previously identified through a biochemical approach is a bona fide receptor for HBV and HDV. NTCPs from rat, mouse, and human bound Myrcludex B, a peptide ligand derived from the HBV L-protein. Myrcludex B blocked NTCP transport of bile salts; small hairpin RNA-mediated knockdown of NTCP in HepaRG cells prevented their infection by HBV or HDV. Expression of human but not mouse NTCP in HepG2 and HuH7 cells conferred a limited cell-type-related and virus-dependent susceptibility to infection; these limitations were overcome when cells were cultured with dimethyl sulfoxide. We identified 2 short-sequence motifs in human NTCP that were required for species-specific binding and infection by HBV and HDV.

Conclusions: Human NTCP is a specific receptor for HBV and HDV. NTCP-expressing cell lines can be efficiently infected with these viruses, and might be used in basic research and high-throughput screening studies. Mapping of motifs in NTCPs have increased our understanding of the species specificities of HBV and HDV, and could lead to small animal models for studies of viral infection and replication.

Keywords: Myrcludex B; Species Specificity; Virology; Virus Entry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Computational Biology
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Hepatitis B virus / physiology*
  • Hepatitis Delta Virus / physiology*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / virology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Lipopeptides / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Organic Anion Transporters, Sodium-Dependent / genetics
  • Organic Anion Transporters, Sodium-Dependent / metabolism*
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • Protein Interaction Mapping
  • RNA Interference
  • Rats
  • Species Specificity
  • Symporters / genetics
  • Symporters / metabolism*
  • Taurocholic Acid / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Transfection
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / metabolism
  • Virus Attachment
  • Virus Internalization*


  • L protein, hepatitis B virus
  • Ligands
  • Lipopeptides
  • Organic Anion Transporters, Sodium-Dependent
  • Symporters
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • myrcludex-B
  • sodium-bile acid cotransporter
  • Taurocholic Acid