Sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP) is a major entry receptor of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and one of the most attractive targets for anti-HBV drugs. We developed a cell-mediated drug screening method to monitor NTCP expression on the cell surface by generating a HepG2 cell line with tetracycline-inducible expression of NTCP and a monoclonal antibody that specifically detects cell-surface NTCP. Using this system, we screened a small molecule library for compounds that protected against HBV infection by targeting NTCP. We found that glabridin, a licorice-derived isoflavane, could suppress viral infection by inducing caveolar endocytosis of cell-surface NTCP with an IC50 of ~40 μM. We also found that glabridin could attenuate the inhibitory effect of taurocholate on type I interferon signaling by depleting the level of cell-surface NTCP. These results demonstrate that our screening system could be a powerful tool for discovering drugs targeting HBV entry.
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