Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is the most important cause of chronic viral hepatitis worldwide. The genome of HBV is 3.2 kb partially double-stranded DNA, which is translocated to the nuclei of infected hepatocytes and converted to complete double-stranded DNA, aka covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA). Typical course of chronic HBV infection results in inactive carrier state with clearance of viral particles in the bloodstream. However, the cccDNA can be detected in the hepatocytes from inactive carriers by sensitive methods. It has been increasingly known that epigenetic mechanisms contribute to the control of HBV replication in the inactive stage of HBV infection. Histone modification and DNA methylation have been identified in the HBV cccDNA, leading to modification of transcriptional activity. The understanding of epigenetic control of transcription will shed light on the development of new therapeutic strategy against HBV cccDNA.
Part of the book: Chromatin and Epigenetics