Background & aims: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a major human pathogen restricted to hepatocytes. Expression of the specific receptor human sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (hNTCP) in mouse hepatocytes renders them susceptible to hepatitis delta virus (HDV), a satellite of HBV; however, HBV remains restricted at an early stage of replication. This study aims at clarifying whether this restriction is caused by the lack of a dependency factor or the activity of a restriction factor.
Methods: Six hNTCP-expressing mouse and human cell lines were generated and functionally characterized. By fusion with replication-supporting but non-infectable HepG2 cells, we analysed the ability of these heterokaryonic cells to fully support HBV replication by HBcAg expression and HBsAg/HBeAg secretion.
Results: While hNTCP expression in three mouse cell lines and the non-hepatic human HeLa cells conferred susceptibility to HDV, HBV replication was still restricted. Upon fusion of refractive cells to HepG2 cells, all heterokaryonic cells supported receptor-mediated infection with HBV. hNTCP was provided by the mouse cells and replication competence came from the HepG2 cell line. Transfection of a covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA)-like molecule into non-susceptible cells promoted gene expression, indicating that the limiting step is upstream of cccDNA formation.
Conclusions: In addition to the expression of hNTCP, establishment of HBV infection in mouse and non-hepatocytic human cell lines requires supplementation with a dependency factor and is not limited by a restriction factor. This result opens new avenues for the development of a fully permissive immunocompetent HBV mouse model.
Keywords: Cell fusion; HBV; HDV; Hepatitis B virus; Hepatitis D virus; Mouse model; NTCP.
Copyright © 2015 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.