Structural characterization of native HBV capsids and virions from human cells

Project: Research project

Project Details


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a global public health concern. Despite effective vaccines to prevent thisdisease, current approved treatment rarely leads to a complete cure. There is an unmet medical need fordeveloping new therapeutics for HBV infection that can lead to a sustained response. Targeting HBV capsidassembly process has become an emerging strategy for developing new antiviral treatment for HBV. However,many efforts have been made by using different capsid protein (Cp) constructs expressed in Escherichia coli tomimic or reconstitute native-like viral particles. Yet, these structures cannot correctly represent the native HBVconformations due to the lacks of nucleic acid binding domain of the Cp, viral genome, and viral enzymes, all ofwhich are required for viral replication. Furthermore, the lack of post translational modifications of the Cp alsohampers the interpretation between observed Cp structures to the biomedical data obtained from the mammaliancell culture system or experimental animals. To date there is no available high-resolution native HBV structures,which is a major gap in knowledge of the HBV field.In this proposal, we aim to use cryo-electron microscope (cryo-EM) to directly characterize the structures ofnative HBV capsids and virions from human cells. In Aim 1, we will determine the high-resolution structures ofpurified intracellular HBV capsids with different types of viral genome. We will address the key questionsconcerning the structural dynamics of HBV capsids during genome maturation. We will also determine thestructure of the HBV reverse transcriptase (RT) and its location during reverse transcription to help understandits mode of action (whether the RT is static or moves). In Aim 2, we will investigate the high-resolution structuresof secreted HBV virions. This aim will address the questions concerning how HBV capsids interact with the viralenvelop proteins. Finally, experimental findings from these two Aims will be integrated to elucidate capsiddynamics during HBV replication and illuminate the molecular determinant(s) of HBV envelopment.This proposal is expected to solve 4 types of intracellular HBV capsid structures (empty, RNA-filled, single-stranded DNA-filled, and mature partially double-stranded DNA-filled capsids) and 3 secreted enveloped HBVvirion structures (empty, mature, and prematurely secreted virions) using cryo-EM to define the conformationalchanges of the capsid during viral replication, particularly in the context of different viral genome forms andinteractions between the capsid and surface proteins. The methodology exploits appropriate mutations of Cpand RT to ensure obtaining homogenous particles of the various types as described above, which can be furthercomputationally classified to minimize cross-contamination.Understanding the native HBV structures will provide valuable new information for HBV biology and guide thedesign of novel antiviral drugs in the future. The project is anticipated to impact fields ranging from HBV,molecular virology, antiviral drug development, and macromolecular structure and function.
Effective start/end date6/14/235/31/28


  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: $728,019.00


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