1887

Abstract

The hepatitis delta virus (HDV) nucleocapsid consists of a genomic-length RNA of 1·7 kb and approximately equimolar amounts of the small and large forms of the hepatitis delta antigen (S-HDAg and L-HDAg, respectively). Since HDV RNA particles contain not only a genomic RNA species encoding S-HDAg but also an RNA species encoding L-HDAg, which is produced by an RNA-editing process, the question arises as to whether RNAs encoding either L-HDAg or S-HDAg can initiate replication. To study this, two cDNA-free transfection methods were employed: HDV RNA cotransfected with either the S-HDAg-encoding mRNA species or the ribonucleocapsid protein complex, comprising HDV RNA and recombinant S-HDAg. Results showed that the genomic-sense RNA encoding S-HDAg could promote HDV replication, whereas the L-HDAg-encoding RNA species was unable to replicate under the same conditions. The antigenomic RNA species encoding either S-HDAg or L-HDAg could not replicate by either of these procedures. In addition, L-HDAg alone could not promote replication of the genomic RNA but, by supplementing an equal amount of S-HDAg, replication occurred. These data indicate that L-HDAg-encoding RNA species are probably not involved in the initiation of HDV RNA synthesis; instead, their main function may be to serve as template for producing L-HDAg, which regulates HDV RNA synthesis and virion assembly. These results suggest that the genomic RNA species encoding S-HDAg is the only functional genome for HDV infection and explain why the presence of the edited HDV RNA encoding L-HDAg does not interfere with HDV infection.

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2002-10-01
2020-09-18
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