Objective To develop an effective and specific medicine targeting hepatitis B virus (HBV) pregenome. Based on the identified accessible target sites for hammerhead ribozyme in our previous researches, a recombinant hepatitis delta virus (HDV) ribozyme was chosen and used to demonstrate the effective cleavage in vitro and in vivo.
Methods Three hammerhead ribozymes for potential target sites (S, X and C genes) and co-expression plasmid (pTr-dB, pTdδ-dB, pTrX-dB and pTrC-dB) as well as four HDV-ribozyme chimera constructs with HBV (pTdXX, pTdXC, pTdSX and pTdSC) were severally chosen to validate the inhibition of the replication and expression of HBV. The co-expression plasmids (pTdδ and pTr-Db) in physiological saline were hydrodynamically injected to mice by tail vein.
Results Compared with the group injected with pTr-dB in Huh-7 cell, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was reduced by 31% in the group injected with pTdδ-dB, by 54%, 26%, 72% and 97% in the group injected with recombinant-ribozymes pTdSX, pTdSC, pTdXC and pTdXX, respectively. The inhibiting effects of endogenous ribozymes RzX and RzC on the HBsAg expression were 66% and 57%, respectively. Compared with the positive control, the amount of HBsAg was decreased in mice injected with pTdXX through tail vein by 88% and 96% on the second day and the third day, respectively. HBsAg was undetectable on the 6th day and could not primitively be detected on the 9th day in the sera from all mice. HBV DNA was not detected in the sera of BALB/c mice injected with pTdXX-dB, pTrX-dB or replicating-defective plasmid pHBV, while HBV DNA replication in control group could be detected on the 6th day. While HBcAg could not be detected in liver tissues of mice injected with plasmid pTdXX-dB on the 3rd day.
Conclusions Encoding regions of HBV S, C and X gene were the effective cleavage sites for hammerhead ribozyme in vitro and in vivo, which provides basis for further construction of therapeutic recombinant HDV and the development of targeting antiviral gene therapy.