Previously, we identified human liver endonexin II (EII) present on human hepatocyte plasma membrane as a specific hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) binding protein. We also showed the spontaneous development of anti-idiotypic (anti-HBsAg) antibodies in rabbits immunized with EII and in chicken immunized with the F(ab′) fragment of rabbit anti-EII IgG. These findings suggest the existence of a receptor-ligand relationship between EII and HBsAg. In the present study, we demonstrate that small HBsAg conjugated to 10 nm colloidal gold also binds specifically to human hepatocytes. Invagination of the coated pit region at the HBsAg binding sites on the human hepatocyte plasma membrane results in the internalization of the HBsAg-gold particles. The binding and consequently the internalization of HBsAg is inhibited by anti-EII or anti-idiotypic (anti-HBsAg) antibodies. These findings indicate that EII is directly involved in the binding and uptake of hepatitis B envelope proteins.


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