Hepatitis B virus genome is organized into nucleosomes in the nucleus of the infected cell

Virus Genes. 1994 Jul;8(3):215-29. doi: 10.1007/BF01703079.


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) nucleoprotein complexes were isolated from nuclei of the human hepatoblastoma cell line HepG2.2.15. Under conditions of physiological ionic strength, the complexes sedimented at a rate corresponding to about 82 S. They contained viral DNA, histone, and nonhistone proteins. For DNA a circular, covalently closed structure was shown both by CsCl gradient centrifugation and electron microscopy. Spread preparations revealed the typical "beads-on-a-string" appearance of nucleosomally organized DNA. The average number of nucleosomes was 18, resulting in a biochemical repeat unit of HBV chromatin of approximately 180 base pairs of DNA. This value was confirmed by experiments analyzing the structure of the HBV chromatin by the use of micrococcal nuclease. Electron microscopy demonstrated that exposure to high ionic strength conditions resulted in removal of nucleosomes from the complexes, but also revealed proteinaceous structures remaining bound to viral DNA molecules. The nature of these residual proteins is discussed. Since native nucleoprotein complexes could be precipitated with HBV-core antibodies, core protein appeared to be one of the nonhistone proteins.

MeSH terms

  • Centrifugation, Density Gradient
  • DNA, Superhelical / metabolism
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Genome, Viral
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics*
  • Hepatoblastoma / virology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Liver Neoplasms / virology*
  • Nucleoproteins / chemistry
  • Nucleoproteins / ultrastructure
  • Nucleosomes / chemistry
  • Nucleosomes / virology*
  • Precipitin Tests
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / virology
  • Viral Core Proteins / metabolism
  • Virus Integration*


  • DNA, Superhelical
  • DNA, Viral
  • Nucleoproteins
  • Nucleosomes
  • Viral Core Proteins