In this proposal we will study the antiviral mechanism of host cellular innate immunity against hepatitis B virus (HBV). Generally, host cells are able to sense viral components through multiple pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that lead to activation of innate cellular defense responses to combat virus infection. In marked contrast, considerable evidence suggests that, for the most part, HBV does not apparently activate such cellular innate response and this is probably central to viral pathogenesis. Such phenomena indicate HBV infection either is stealth from the detection of the innate PRRs, or HBV has ability to block the innate signal cascades. However, our preliminary evidence shows that HBV replication in human hepatocyte-derived cell lines, such as HepG2 and Huh7, is dramatically inhibited by the innate immune response elicited by expression of PRR adaptors for either Toll-like receptors (TLR), TRIF and MyD88, or adaptor for intracellular RIG-I-like helicases (RLH), IPS-1. Perhaps most surprising is that the inhibition of HBV replication appears to be mediated by intracellular antiviral pathway(s), rather than the secretion of antiviral cytokines such as IFN-1/2. Furthermore, the data suggest that activation of these pathways result in the post-transcriptional degradation of HBV mRNAs. Moreover, we found that activation of NF-:B pathway is essential for all three adaptors to inhibit HBV replication and activation of additional pathway(s) is required for TRIF to induce the maximum antiviral effect. The proposed studies will focus on the molecular mechanism by which the innate immune response inhibits HBV replication. Specifically, the HBV RNA sequence elements responsible for the posttranscriptional RNA decay will be mapped, IPS-1-induced cellular effector molecules that lead to the decay of HBV RNAs will be identified. Understanding of the robust and intricate innate antiviral pathway could potentially lead to the development of novel therapeutics to control HBV infections.

Public Health Relevance

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a severe public health problem affecting about 400 million individuals worldwide. Chronic hepatitis B patients have a high risk of occurrence of hepatocirrhosis and liver cancer. Currently approved drugs for treatment of chronic hepatitis B, including alpha interferon, and nucleos(t)ide analogues inhibiting the viral polymerase, are limited by poor response, side effects and emergence of drug resistance. Despite the antiviral drugs, it is very important for the patient to establish the robust innate and acquire immune response to efficiently purge the virus infection. In our effort to understand the innate control of HBV infection, we found that although HBV itself does not activate innate immunity signaling, however the virus is very sensitive to the innate immune responses elicited by the expression of the signal cascades components. Therefore, further study of the molecular mechanism of the innate control of HBV would lead to the better understanding of the virus host interaction and development of novel therapeutics for treatment of hepatitis B.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Immunity and Host Defense Study Section (IHD)
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Berard, Diana S
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Drexel University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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