The envelope proteins of hepadnaviruses are highly cross-linked by disulfide bonds in complete virions and 20 nm subviral envelope particles. We have previously shown which of the cysteines in the envelope proteins of the human hepatitis B virus (HBV) are essential for assembly and secretion of 20 nm particles and for the structure of the major antigenic determinants (HBsAg). Now we have analyzed the intermolecular disulfide bonds between S proteins. We have constructed mutants lacking cysteines and have analyzed their capacity for oligomerization in COS-7 cells. We demonstrate that C121 and C147 located in the second hydrophilic region carrying the major antigenic determinants of the HBV S protein participate in intermolecular disulfide bonding. A disulfide bond involving C124 blocks the accessibility of arginine/lysine at position 122, as shown by trypsin digestion of cysteine mutants. Alkylation studies using N-ethyl-maleimide indicate that C76, C90, and/or C221 carry the only free sulfhydryl group(s) present in 20 nm particles secreted from cell lines.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 1, 1997
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