Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major public health problem. The sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP) has been identified as an essential HBV receptor. Human hepatocytes are infected with HBV via binding between the preS1 region of the HBV large envelope protein and the NTCP. However, the role of preS2 in HBV entry is not well understood. In this study, we induced anti-preS2 serum in mice by DNA immunization, and showed that the resulting antiserum neutralized HBV infectivity. Competition assays using overlapping peptides suggested that the neutralizing epitope is located in the N-terminal region of preS2. In addition, monoclonal antibodies targeting the N-terminal region of preS2 neutralized HBV infectivity, indicating that these domains are critical epitopes for viral neutralization. These findings provide new insights into the HBV entry machinery while suggesting a novel modality for the prevention and treatment of HBV infection.
Keywords: Hepatitis B virus; Neutralizing epitope; PreS2.
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