Ningshao Xia: Structural and functional analyses of hepatitis B virus X protein BH3-like domain and Bcl-xL interaction
Abstract: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) X protein, HBx, interacts with anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL proteins through its BH3-like motif to promote HBV replication and cytotoxicity. Here we report the crystal structure of HBx BH3-like motif in complex with Bcl-xL where the BH3-like motif adopts a short α-helix to snuggle into a hydrophobic pocket in Bcl-xL via its noncanonical Trp120 residue and conserved Leu123 residue. This binding pocket is ~2 Å away from the canonical BH3-only binding pocket in structures of Bcl-xL with proapoptotic BH3-only proteins. Mutations altering Trp120 and Leu123 in HBx impair its binding to Bcl-xL in vitro and HBV replication in vivo, confirming the importance of this motif to HBV. A HBx BH3-like peptide, HBx-aa113-135, restores HBV replication from a HBx-null HBV replicon, while a shorter peptide, HBx-aa118-127, inhibits HBV replication. These results provide crucial structural and functional insights into drug designs for inhibiting HBV replication and treating HBV patients.