Establishment of Cre-mediated HBV recombinant cccDNA (rcccDNA) cell line for cccDNA biology and antiviral screening assays

Min Wu, Jin Li, Lei Yue, Lu Bai, Yaming Li, Jieliang Chen, Xiaonan Zhang, Zhenghong Yuan

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20 Citations (Scopus)
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Hepatitis B virus (HBV) covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA), existing in hepatocyte nuclei as a stable minichromosome, plays a central role in the life cycle of the virus and permits the persistence of infection. Despite being essential for HBV infection, little is known about the molecular mechanisms of cccDNA formation, regulation and degradation, and there is no therapeutic agents directly targeting cccDNA, fore mostly due to the lack of robust, reliable and quantifiable HBV cccDNA models. In this study, combined the Cre/loxP and sleeping beauty transposons system, we established HepG2-derived cell lines integrated with 2-60 copies of monomeric HBV genome flanked by loxP sites (HepG2-HBV/loxP). After Cre expression via adenoviral transduction, 3.3-kb recombinant cccDNA (rcccDNA) bearing a chimeric intron can be produced in the nuclei of these HepG2-HBV/loxP cells. The rcccDNA could be accurately quantified by quantitative PCR using specific primers and cccDNA pool generated in this model could be easily detected by Southern blotting using the digoxigenin probe system. We demonstrated that the rcccDNA was epigenetically organized as the natural minichromosome and served as the template supporting pgRNA transcription and viral replication. As the expression of HBV S antigen (HBsAg) is dependent on the newly generated cccDNA, HBsAg is the surrogate marker of cccDNA. Additionally, the efficacies of 3 classes of anti-HBV agents were evaluated in HepG2-HBV/loxP cells and antiviral activities with different mechanisms were confirmed. These data collectively suggested that HepG2-HBV/loxP cell system will be powerful platform for studying cccDNA related biological mechanisms and developing novel cccDNA targeting drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalAntiviral Research
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


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