Hepatitis B virus HBx protein activates Ras-GTP complex formation and establishes a Ras, Raf, MAP kinase signaling cascade

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Oct 25;91(22):10350-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.91.22.10350.


Hepatitis B virus produces a small (154-amino acid) transcriptional transactivating protein, HBx, which is required for viral infection and has been implicated in virus-mediated liver oncogenesis. However, the molecular mechanism for HBx activity and its possible influence on cell proliferation have remained obscure. A number of studies suggest that HBx may stimulate transcription by indirectly activating transcription factors, possibly by influencing cell signaling pathways. We now present biochemical evidence that HBx activates Ras and rapidly induces a cytoplasmic signaling cascade linking Ras, Raf, and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP kinase), leading to transcriptional transactivation. HBx strongly elevates levels of GTP-bound Ras, activated and phosphorylated Raf, and tyrosine-phosphorylated and activated MAP kinase. Transactivation of transcription factor AP-1 by HBx is blocked by inhibition of Ras or Raf activities but not by inhibition of Ca(2+)- and diacylglycerol-dependent protein kinase C. HBx was also found to stimulate DNA synthesis in serum-starved cells. The hepatitis B virus HBx protein therefore stimulates Ras-GTP complex formation and promotes downstream signaling through Raf and MAP kinases, and may influence cell proliferation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Collagenases / genetics
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Hepatitis B Antigens / metabolism
  • Hepatitis B virus / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-raf
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / metabolism
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins
  • ras Proteins / metabolism*


  • Hepatitis B Antigens
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factor AP-1
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins
  • hepatitis B virus X protein
  • Guanosine Triphosphate
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-raf
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Collagenases
  • ras Proteins