The infectious particles of hepatitis B virus are called Dane particles and consist of viral nucleic acid encapsulated within a core particle that is enveloped by virus-coded surface proteins. The major S protein constitutes a significant fraction of these surface proteins. In addition, there are two other related proteins (large S and middle S), but their role in envelope formation has not yet been elucidated. We modified the translation initiation codon ATG of each of the envelope proteins by site-directed mutagenesis and found that mutant genomes that did not produce one or two of these proteins were unable to form Dane particles. The particles released into the culture medium by such mutants did not carry DNA. Synthesis of virus-coded RNA still occurred normally, and core particles carrying DNA accumulated intracellularly. The DNA in such core particles was mostly in the double-stranded open circular form, in contrast to the normal situation in which the particles contain mostly RNA and its complementary single-stranded DNA or else contain linear DNA that is partially single stranded and otherwise duplex. The role of the large S and middle S proteins in the formation of Dane particles is discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science