Background & Aims: To provide an adequate treatment strategy for chronic hepatitis B, it is essential to know which patients are expected to have a good prognosis and which patients do not require therapeutic intervention. Previously, we identified the substitution of isoleucine to leucine at amino acid 97 (I97L) in the hepatitis B core region as a key predictor among patients with stable hepatitis. In this study, we attempted to identify the point at which I97L affects the hepatitis B virus (HBV) life cycle and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms governing the stabilization of hepatitis. Methods: To confirm the clinical features of I97L, we used a cohort of hepatitis B e antigen–negative patients with chronic hepatitis B infected with HBV-I97 wild-type (wt) or HBV-I97L. The effects of I97L on viral characteristics were evaluated by in vitro HBV production and infection systems with the HBV reporter virus and cell culture-generated HBV. Results: The ratios of reduction in hepatitis B surface antigen and HBV DNA were higher in patients with HBV-I97L than in those with HBV-I97wt. HBV-I97L exhibited lower infectivity than HBV-I97wt in both infection systems with reporter HBV and cell culture-generated HBV. HBV-I97L virions exhibiting low infectivity primarily contained a single-stranded HBV genome. The lower efficiency of cccDNA synthesis was demonstrated after infection of HBV-I97L or transfection of the molecular clone of HBV-I97L. Conclusions: The I97L substitution reduces the level of cccDNA through the generation of immature virions with single-stranded genomes. This I97L-associated low efficiency of cccDNA synthesis may be involved in the stabilization of hepatitis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes