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J Virol. 1994 July; 68(7): 4341–4348.
PMCID: PMC236357

Multiple functions of capsid protein phosphorylation in duck hepatitis B virus replication.


We have investigated the role of phosphorylation of the capsid protein of the avian hepadnavirus duck hepatitis B virus in viral replication. We found previously that three serines and one threonine in the C-terminal 24 amino acids of the capsid protein serve as phosphorylation sites and that the pattern of phosphorylation at these sites in intracellular viral capsids is complex. In this study, we present evidence that the phosphorylation state of three of these residues affects distinct steps in viral replication. By substituting these residues with alanine in order to mimic serine, or with aspartic acid in order to mimic phosphoserine, and assaying the effects of these substitutions on various steps in virus replication, we were able to make the following inferences. (i) The presence of phosphoserines at residues 245 and 259 stimulates DNA synthesis within viral nucleocapsids. (ii) The absence of phosphoserine at residue 257 and at residues 257 and 259 stimulates covalently closed circular DNA synthesis and virus production, respectively. (iii) The presence of phosphoserine at position 259 is required for initiation of infection. The results implied that both phosphorylated and nonphosphorylated capsid proteins were necessary for a nucleocapsid particle to carry out all its functions in virus replication, explaining why differential phosphorylation of the capsid protein occurs in hepadnaviruses. Whether these differentially phosphorylated proteins coexist on the same nucleocapsid, or whether the nucleocapsid acquires sequential functions through selective phosphorylation and dephosphorylation, is discussed.

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