1887

Abstract

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a small hepatotropic DNA virus that replicates via an RNA intermediate. After entry, the virus capsid carries relaxed circular DNA (rcDNA) into the nucleus where the viral genome is converted into covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA), which serves as the template for all viral transcripts. To monitor cccDNA levels, preprocessing methods to eliminate rcDNA have emerged for quantitative PCR, although Southern blotting is still the only method to discriminate cccDNA from other DNA intermediates. In this study, we have established a robust method for untying mature rcDNA into double stranded linear DNA using specific polymerases. Untying rcDNA provides not only an alternative method for cccDNA quantification but also a sensitive method for visualizing cccDNA. We combined this method with plasmid-safe DNase and T5 exonuclease preprocessing and revealed that accurate quantification requires cccDNA digestion by a restriction enzyme because heat stability of cccDNA increases after T5 exonuclease treatment. In digital PCR using duplex TaqMan probes, fewer than 1000 copies of cccDNA were successfully visualized as double positive spots that were distinct from single positives derived from untied rcDNA. This method was further applied to the infection model of primary hepatocytes treated with nucleoside analogues and a core protein allosteric modulator to monitor cccDNA levels. Relative quantification of cccDNA by human genome copy demonstrated the possibility of precise evaluation of cccDNA level per nucleus. These results clearly indicate that the sequential reaction from untying rcDNA is useful to investigate cccDNA fates in a small fraction of nuclei.

Funding
This study was supported by the:
  • Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (Award 20fk0310109h0004)
    • Principle Award Recipient: KazuakiChayama
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/content/journal/jgv/10.1099/jgv.0.001591
2022-02-07
2022-05-18
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