The hepatitis B virus X protein sensitizes HepG2 cells to UV light-induced DNA damage

Alvin T.C. Lee, Jianwei Ren, Ee Tsin Wong, Kenneth H.K. Ban, Linda A. Lee, Caroline G.L. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Various reports have implicated the virally encoded HBx protein as a cofactor in hepatocarcinogenesis. However, direct evidence of the role of HBx as a promoter of oncogenesis in response to an initiating factor such as DNA damage remains inadequate. Here, we report the effects of HBx in HepG2 cells exposed to UV light-induced DNA damage. HBx expression was found not to affect the morphology, viability, and cell cycle/apoptotic profiles or DNA repair machinery of untreated cells. Nonetheless, upon UV treatment, HBx protein levels increased concomitantly with p53 levels. Both HBx and p53 proteins were found to interact and colocalize primarily in the nucleus. The binding of HBx to p53 modulated (but did not inhibit) the transcriptional activation function of p53. Notably, HBx-expressing cells exhibited increased sensitivity to UV damage, resulting in greater G2/M arrest and apoptosis of these cells. Additionally, these cells displayed a reduced DNA repair capacity in response to UV damage. In conclusion, this work suggests that DNA damage may be an initiating factor in hepatocarcinogenesis and that HBx may act as the promoting factor by inhibiting DNA repair. In hepatitis B virus-infected hepatocytes, a chronic infection may present the opportunity for such a DNA-damaging event to occur, and accumulated errors caused by the inhibition of DNA repair by HBx may result in oncogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33525-33535
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number39
StatePublished - Sep 30 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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