Mapping of functional subdomains in the terminal protein domain of hepatitis B virus polymerase

Daniel N. Clark, John M. Flanagan, Jianming Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) encodes a multifunction reverse transcriptase or polymerase (P), which is composed of several domains. The terminal protein (TP) domain is unique to HBV and related hepadnaviruses and is required for specifically binding to the viral pregenomic RNA (pgRNA). Subsequently, the TP domain is necessary for pgRNA packaging into viral nucleocapsids and the initiation of viral reverse transcription for conversion of the pgRNA to viral DNA. Uniquely, the HBV P protein initiates reverse transcription via a protein priming mechanism using the TP domain as a primer. No structural homologs or high-resolution structure exists for the TP domain. Secondary structure prediction identified three disordered loops in TP with highly conserved sequences. A meta-analysis of mutagenesis studies indicated these predicted loops are almost exclusively where functionally important residues are located. Newly constructed TP mutations revealed a priming loop in TP which plays a specific role in protein-primed DNA synthesis beyond simply harboring the site of priming. Substitutions of potential sites of phosphorylation surrounding the priming site demonstrated that these residues are involved in interactions critical for priming but are unlikely to be phosphorylated during viral replication. Furthermore, the first 13 and 66 TP residues were shown to be dispensable for protein priming and pgRNA binding, respectively. Combining current and previous mutagenesis work with sequence analysis has increased our understanding of TP structure and functions by mapping specific functions to distinct predicted secondary structures and will facilitate antiviral targeting of this unique domain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01785-16
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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