Hepatitis B virus (HBV) X protein (HBx) plays an essential role in viral replication and in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. HBx has the ability to transactivate the expression of all HBV proteins, including the viral core protein HBc. Consistent with its regulatory role, HBx is relatively unstable and is present at low levels in the cell. We report here that the level of HBx was significantly reduced by the coexpression of HBc in cultured human hepatoma cells, whereas the level of HBx mRNA was unaffected. The repression of HBx by HBc was relieved by treating cells with the proteasome inhibitor MG132, indicating that HBc acts by stimulating the proteasome-mediated degradation of HBx. Moreover, the inhibitory effect of HBc was specific to HBx and did not affect other proteins, including p53, a known target of the proteasome. Although no direct physical interaction between HBc and HBx could be demonstrated, mutational analysis indicated that the C-terminal half of HBc is responsible for its inhibitory effect. These results suggest that HBc functions as a novel regulator of the HBV life cycle and of hepatocellular carcinogenesis through control of the HBx level via an inhibitory feedback type of mechanism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science