Assembly of a hepatitis B virus (HBV) virion begins with the formation of an RNA-filled core composed of a symmetrical capsid (built of core protein), viral pregenomic RNA, and viral reverse transcriptase. To generate the circular dsDNA genome of HBV, reverse transcription requires multiple template switches within the confines of the capsid. To date, most anti-HBV therapeutics target this reverse transcription process. The detailed molecular mechanisms of this crucial process are poorly understood because of the lack of structural information. We hypothesized that capsid, RNA, and viral reverse transcriptase would need a precise geometric organization to accomplish reverse transcription. Here we present the asymmetric structure of authentic RNA-filled cores, determined to 14.5-Å resolution from cryo-EM data. Capsid and RNA are concentric. On the interior of the RNA, we see a distinct donut-like density, assigned to viral reverse transcriptase, which pins the viral pregenomic RNA to the capsid inner surface. The observation of a unique ordered structure inside the core suggests that assembly and the first steps of reverse transcription follow a single, determinate pathway and strongly suggests that all subsequent steps in DNA synthesis do as well.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Aug 5 2014|
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