1887

Abstract

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a major human pathogen that causes liver diseases. The main HBV RNAs are unspliced transcripts that encode the key viral proteins. Recent studies have shown that some of the HBV spliced transcript isoforms are predictive of liver cancer, yet the roles of these spliced transcripts remain elusive. Furthermore, there are nine major HBV genotypes common in different regions of the world, these genotypes may express different spliced transcript isoforms. To systematically study the HBV splice variants, we transfected human hepatoma cells, Huh7, with four HBV genotypes (A2, B2, C2 and D3), followed by deep RNA-sequencing. We found that 13–28 % of HBV RNAs were splice variants, which were reproducibly detected across independent biological replicates. These comprised 6 novel and 10 previously identified splice variants. In particular, a novel, singly spliced transcript was detected in genotypes A2 and D3 at high levels. The biological relevance of these splice variants was supported by their identification in HBV-positive liver biopsy and serum samples, and in HBV-infected primary human hepatocytes. Interestingly the levels of HBV splice variants varied across the genotypes, but the spliced pregenomic RNA SP1 and SP9 were the two most abundant splice variants. Counterintuitively, these singly spliced SP1 and SP9 variants had a suboptimal 5′ splice site, supporting the idea that splicing of HBV RNAs is tightly controlled by the viral post-transcriptional regulatory RNA element.

Funding
This study was supported by the:
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (Award APP1145977)
    • Principle Award Recipient: PeterA. Revill
  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. This article was made open access via a Publish and Read agreement between the Microbiology Society and the corresponding author’s institution.
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2021-01-13
2021-10-22
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