22 June 2016 - PRESS RELEASE

Tricks of Ticking time bomb Hepatitis B Virus

Providing a new paradigm to hepatitis B understanding, researchers at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the Heidelberg University Hospital and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) have now uncovered a novel maturation mechanism employed by HBV to improve its infection success.  It has been demonstrated that HBV is remarkably specific in infecting liver cells by changing their form from a non-binding to a mature binding type. 


Hepatitis B viruses (big oval structures with dark core). © Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg / S.Seitz

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes an infectious disease that afflicts 230 million people worldwide, therof 440 000 in Germany.  To infect cells, viruses need to first attach to specific cellular recepros, i.e. molecules on the cell´s surface. Although these receptors are ubiquitously expressed across virtually all cell types in the human body, HBV is remarkably specific in infecting liver cells. The researchers could explain this paradox. They have shown that the viral particles can cycle in the bloodstream in their immature state until they once reach the liver where they finally will be trapped and . Conversion into mature particles afterwards will lead to a productive infection. The exact molecular mechanisms and stimulus of the HBV infection still needs to be discovered.

"It is a novel and highly elegant paradigm for a viral maturation mechanism that differs fundamentally from all previously described viral maturation mechanisms. ", DZIF Prof Ralf Bartenschlager, lasr author of the study summarizes. The lab is now aiming to discover the exact molecular mechanisms and stimulus of the maturation process, and also to identify inhibitors against it.

DKFZ Press Release


Stefan Seitz, Caroline Iancu, Tassilo Volz, Walter Mier, Maura Dandri, Stephan Urban, Ralf Bartenschlager: "A Slow Maturation Process Renders Hepatitis B Virus Infectious" in: Cell Host & Microbe, 16.6.2016. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2016.05.013

Back to List