Pro-apoptotic effect of the hepatitis B virus X gene

Biomed Pharmacother. 1998;52(9):363-8. doi: 10.1016/s0753-3322(99)80003-1.


The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a common human pathogen that causes acute and chronic liver disease. Persistent HBV infection is strongly associated with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. The contribution of the viral regulatory protein HBx in liver oncogenesis has been supported by our recent studies in a transgenic mouse model, showing that HBx cooperates with c-myc by accelerating the onset of primary liver tumors. Here we show that liver expression of HBx is associated with increased rates of spontaneous apoptosis in liver cells from two different transgenic lines. In transient transfection assays, overexpression of HBx in the established hepatocyte cell line MMHD3 and in human hepatoma cells HepG2 was found to induce apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner. These data suggest that HBx might trigger an apoptotic process in HBV-infected hepatocytes, in turn possibly favoring liver regeneration and accumulation of genetic alterations, ultimately leading to liver cell transformation in chronically infected patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Cell Line
  • Hepatitis B virus / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver / virology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / physiology*
  • Transfection
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins


  • Trans-Activators
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins
  • hepatitis B virus X protein