Two distinct segments of the hepatitis B virus surface antigen contribute synergistically to its association with the viral core particles.

Research paper by W S WS Tan, M R MR Dyson, K K Murray

Indexed on: 20 Feb '99Published on: 20 Feb '99Published in: Journal of Molecular Biology


The long surface antigen polypeptide (L-HBsAg) of hepatitis B virus (HBV) is believed to mediate contact between the virus envelope and nucleocapsid protein (HBcAg). The N and C termini of L-HBsAg were shortened progressively in order to define the minimum contiguous sequence of amino acids that contains the residues necessary for association with HBcAg. The resulting mutants were expressed in rabbit reticulocyte lysates and their interaction with HBcAg was examined with an immunoprecipitation assay and an equilibrium binding assay in solution to give relative dissociation constants. Binding of HBcAg particles by L-HBsAg displayed two widely differing dissociation constants, indicating two distinct binding sites between the molecules. The two distinct sites, one located between residues 24 and 191 and the other between residues 191 and 322 of L-HBsAg, contribute synergistically to high-affinity binding to HBcAg, but disruption of either of these segments resulted in a much weaker interaction showing only one dissociation constant. Inhibition of the interaction by peptides that bind to the tips of the nucleocapsid spikes differentiated contacts in HBcAg for the two binding domains in L-HBsAg and implied that the amino-terminal binding domain contacts the tips of the HBcAg spikes. Analysis of specific single amino acid mutants of L-HBsAg showed that Arg92 played an important role in the interaction.