Molecular basis of the diversity of hepatitis B virus core-gene products
All hepatitis B viruses examined to date code for at least two different core-gene products which are referred to as the c- and the e-protein. In the case of the human hepatitis B virus, they are known as the HBcAg and the HBeAg. Although these proteins share most of their primary amino acid sequence, they exhibit quite distinct properties. The e-protein is located in the cytoplasm and the nucleus of infected cells and very efficiently assembles into nucleocapsids. By contrast, the e-protein does not form particles. It enters the secretory pathway and is actively secreted by the cells. Here we describe the biosynthetic pathways by which the c- and e-proteins are expressed and summarize recent data from our laboratory showing that the antigenic and biophysical properties which distinguish the HBeAg from the HBcAg are primarily due to the 10 amino acid long portion of the HBeAg leader sequence that remains attached to the HBeAg after cleavage.
KeywordsCore Protein Core Antigen Signal Peptidase Primary Amino Acid Sequence Human Hepatitis
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