Hepatitis B virus (HBV) core protein (HBc), the building block of the viral capsid, plays a critical role throughout the HBV life cycle. There are two highly conserved lysine residues, namely, K7 and K96, on HBc, which have been proposed to function at various stages of viral replication, potentially through lysine-specific posttranslational modifications (PTMs). Here, we substituted K7 and K96 with alanine or arginine, which would also block potential PTMs on these two lysine residues, and tested the effects of these substitutions on HBV replication and infection. We found that the two lysine residues were dispensable for all intracellular steps of HBV replication. In particular, all mutants were competent to form the covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) via the intracellular amplification pathway, indicating that K7 and K96, or any PTMs of these residues, were not essential for nucleocapsid uncoating, a prerequisite for cccDNA formation. Furthermore, we found that K7A and K7R mutations did not affect de novo cccDNA formation and RNA transcription during infection, indicating that K7 or any PTMs of this residue were dispensable for HBV infection. In addition, we demonstrated that the HBc K7 coding sequence (AAA), as part of the HBV polyadenylation signal UAUAAA, was indispensable for viral RNA production, implicating this cis requirement at the RNA level, instead of any function of HBc-K7, likely constrains the identity of the 7th residue of HBc. In conclusion, our results provided novel insights regarding the roles of lysine residues on HBc, and their coding sequences, in the HBV life cycle.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science