Hepatitis B virus HBx protein deregulates cell cycle checkpoint controls

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Nov 21;92(24):11215-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.92.24.11215.


The human hepatitis B virus (HBV) HBx protein is a small transcriptional activator that is essential for virus infection. HBx is thought to be involved in viral hepatocarcinogenesis because it promotes tumorigenesis in transgenic mice. HBx activates the RAS-RAF-mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase signaling cascade, through which it activates transcription factors AP-1 and NF-kappa B, and stimulates cell DNA synthesis. We show that HBx stimulates cell cycle progression, shortening the emergence of cells from quiescence (G0) and entry into S phase by at least 12 h, and accelerating transit through checkpoint controls at G0/G1 and G2/M. Compared with serum stimulation, HBx was found to strongly increase the rate and level of activation of the cyclin-dependent kinases CDK2 and CDC2, and their respective active association with cyclins E and A or cyclin B. HBx is also shown to override or greatly reduce serum dependence for cell cycle activation. Both HBx and serum were found to require activation of RAS to stimulate cell cycling, but only HBx could shorten checkpoint intervals. HBx therefore stimulates cell proliferation by activating RAS and a second unknown effector, which may be related to its reported ability to induce prolonged activation of JUN or to interact with cellular p53 protein. These data suggest a molecular mechanism by which HBx likely contributes to viral carcinogenesis. By deregulating checkpoint controls, HBx could participate in the selection of cells that are genetically unstable, some of which would accumulate unrepaired transforming mutations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • CDC2 Protein Kinase / metabolism
  • CDC2-CDC28 Kinases*
  • Cell Cycle*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 2
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases / metabolism*
  • Cyclins / metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Trans-Activators / physiology*
  • Transfection
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins


  • Cyclins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins
  • hepatitis B virus X protein
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • CDC2 Protein Kinase
  • CDC2-CDC28 Kinases
  • CDK2 protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 2
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases