A conserved RNA structural element within the hepatitis B virus post-transcriptional regulatory element enhance nuclear export of intronless transcripts and repress the splicing mechanism
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Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a primary cause of hepatocellular carcinoma and liver cirrhosis worldwide. To develop novel antiviral drugs, a better understanding of HBV gene expression regulation is vital. One important aspect is to understand how HBV hijacks the cellular machinery to export unspliced RNA from the nucleus. The HBV post-transcriptional regulatory element (HBV PRE) has been proposed to be the HBV RNA nuclear export element. However, the function remains controversial, and the core element is unclear. This study, therefore, aimed to identify functional regulatory elements within the HBV PRE and investigate their functions. Using bioinformatics programs based on sequence conservation and conserved RNA secondary structures, three regulatory elements were predicted, namely PRE 1151–1410, PRE 1520–1620 and PRE 1650–1684. PRE 1151–1410 significantly increased intronless and unspliced luciferase activity in both HepG2 and COS-7 cells. Likewise, PRE 1151–1410 significantly elevated intronless and unspliced HBV surface transcripts in liver cancer cells. Moreover, motif analysis predicted that PRE 1151–1410 contains several regulatory motifs. This study reported the roles of PRE 1151–1410 in intronless transcript nuclear export and the splicing mechanism. Additionally, these results provide knowledge in the field of HBV RNA regulation. Moreover, PRE 1151–1410 may be used to enhance the expression of other mRNAs in intronless reporter plasmids.
KeywordsHepatitis B virus HBV PRE Nuclear export Splicing Regulatory element
We would like to express our deep appreciation to Dr. Christopher M. Brown for plasmids (pBasic (-IN) and pSpliceLuc). AV was funded by a Graduate School Kasetsart University Grant. NPT is funded by a Faculty of Science Grant, Kasetsart University (APSP 4/2556 and ScRF-S6/2558). This study was also funded by the Kasetsart University Research and Development Institute Grant (Mor-Vor 7.56).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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