The viral transactivator HBx protein exhibits a high potential for regulation via phosphorylation through an evolutionarily conserved mechanism
1 Laboratorio de Virus Hepatitis, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Andrés Bello, Avda. República 217, 3er piso, Santiago 8370146, Chile
2 Sección de Gastroenterología, Departamento de Medicina, Hospital Clínico Universidad de Chile, Avda. Santos Dumont 999, Independencia, Santiago 8340457, Chile
Infectious Agents and Cancer 2012, 7:27 doi:10.1186/1750-9378-7-27Published: 18 October 2012
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) encodes an oncogenic factor, HBx, which is a multifunctional protein that can induce dysfunctional regulation of signaling pathways, transcription, and cell cycle progression, among other processes, through interactions with target host factors. The subcellular localization of HBx is both cytoplasmic and nuclear. This dynamic distribution of HBx could be essential to the multiple roles of the protein at different stages during HBV infection. Transactivational functions of HBx may be exerted both in the nucleus, via interaction with host DNA-binding proteins, and in the cytoplasm, via signaling pathways. Although there have been many studies describing different pathways altered by HBx, and its innumerable binding partners, the molecular mechanism that regulates its different roles has been difficult to elucidate.
In the current study, we took a bioinformatics approach to investigate whether the viral protein HBx might be regulated via phosphorylation by an evolutionarily conserved mechanism.
We found that the phylogenetically conserved residues Ser25 and Ser41 (both within the negative regulatory domain), and Thr81 (in the transactivation domain) are predicted to be phosphorylated. By molecular 3D modeling of HBx, we further show these residues are all predicted to be exposed on the surface of the protein, making them easily accesible to these types of modifications. Furthermore, we have also identified Yin Yang sites that might have the potential to be phosphorylated and O-β-GlcNAc interplay at the same residues.
Thus, we propose that the different roles of HBx displayed in different subcellular locations might be regulated by an evolutionarily conserved mechanism of posttranslational modification, via phosphorylation.