Several variants of the major “a” determinant of the HBsAg, the main target of HBV neutralization by antibodies, have been described. However, mutations outside this region have not been as thoroughly investigated. During the genotyping of HBV from Tunisian patients with chronic hepatitis B, we identified a variant with a C69R substitution in the cytosolic loop of the S protein, resulting in a change in the hydrophobicity profile compared to the wild-type HBsAg. Wild-type and mutant HBsAgs were produced in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and recombinant proteins were tested for their ability to correctly self-assemble into virus-like particles (VLPs), and their ability to bind to HBs antibodies. The C69R substitution resulted in a decrease in binding to commercial anti-HBs antibodies, and although the variant appeared to assemble properly into VLPs, the average size of the particles was larger than that of the wild-type HBsAg. Prediction of the tertiary structure of the C69R mutant revealed a change in the first (aa 60-70) and the second loop (aa 110 to 120) compared to the wild-type protein. Furthermore, we showed by an isothermal titration calorimetry assay that the interaction between the wild-type HBsAg and the anti-HBs antibody was exothermic, whereas that with the mutant C69R was endothermic, indicating an effect on the binding affinity.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 1, 2015
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