Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) is essential for the assembly and infection of hepatitis D virus (HDV). The assembly efficiency of genotype 1 HDV is higher than that of genotype 2, whilst the P62L substitution of major HBsAg further compromises the assembly of genotype 2 and 4 HDV. This study investigated the influence of proline residues in the carboxyl end of the large hepatitis delta antigen (HDAg-L) on the assembly of HDV of different genotypes. Expression vectors containing the HDAg-L gene or full-length HDV genome of genotype 1, 2 or 4 were co-transfected with plasmids expressing HBsAg proteins that bore either proline or leucine residues at position 62. Of the eight HDV genotypes, only genotype 1 has Pro-205 in HDAg-L, whereas genotypes 2 and 4 have Arg-205. The Arg-205 to Pro-205 substitution in HDV-2 and -4 markedly increased the assembly efficiencies of HDAg-L and whole HDV genomes, even in the presence of HBsAg with Leu-62. In contrast, secretion of genotype 1 HDV or HDAg-L was reduced significantly when arginine or alanine replaced Pro-205. When HBsAg contained Pro-62, the influence of Pro-205 on assembly decreased. In conclusion, both Pro-205 of the HDAg-L and Pro-62 of the major HBsAg play critical roles in the assembly of HDV of different genotypes. The presence of Pro-205 in genotype 1 HDV may account for its higher assembly efficiencies and wider distribution.


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