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    Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and its hepadnavirus relatives infect a wide range of vertebrates, from fish to human. Hepadnaviruses and their hosts have a long history of acquiring adaptive mutations. However, there are no reports providing direct molecular evidence for such a coevolutionary "arms race" between hepadnaviruses and their hosts. Here, we present evidence suggesting that the adaptive evolution of the sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP), an HBV receptor, has been influenced by virus infection. Evolutionary analysis of the NTCP-encoding genes from 20 mammals showed that most NTCP residues are highly conserved among species, exhibiting evolution under negative selection (dN/dS ratio [ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous evolutionary changes] of <1); this observation implies that the evolution of NTCP is restricted by maintaining its original protein function. However, 0.7% of NTCP amino acid residues exhibit rapid evolution under positive selection (dN/dS ratio of >1). Notably, a substitution at amino acid (aa) 158, a positively selected residue, converting the human NTCP to a monkey-type sequence abrogated the capacity to support HBV infection; conversely, a substitution at this residue converting the monkey Ntcp to the human sequence was sufficient to confer HBV susceptibility. Together, these observations suggested a close association of the aa 158 positive selection with the pressure by virus infection. Moreover, the aa 158 sequence determined attachment of the HBV envelope protein to the host cell, demonstrating the mechanism whereby HBV infection would create positive selection at this NTCP residue. In summary, we provide the first evidence in agreement with the function of hepadnavirus as a driver for inducing adaptive mutation in host receptor.IMPORTANCE HBV and its hepadnavirus relatives infect a wide range of vertebrates, with a long infectious history (hundreds of millions of years). Such a long history generally allows adaptive mutations in hosts to escape from infection while simultaneously allowing adaptive mutations in viruses to overcome host barriers. However, there is no published molecular evidence for such a coevolutionary arms race between hepadnaviruses and hosts. In the present study, we performed coevolutionary phylogenetic analysis between hepadnaviruses and the sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP), an HBV receptor, combined with virological experimental assays for investigating the biological significance of NTCP sequence variation. Our data provide the first molecular evidence supporting that HBV-related hepadnaviruses drive adaptive evolution in the NTCP sequence, including a mechanistic explanation of how NTCP mutations determine host viral susceptibility. Our novel insights enhance our understanding of how hepadnaviruses evolved with their hosts, permitting the acquisition of strong species specificity. Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.


    Junko S Takeuchi, Kento Fukano, Masashi Iwamoto, Senko Tsukuda, Ryosuke Suzuki, Hideki Aizaki, Masamichi Muramatsu, Takaji Wakita, Camille Sureau, Koichi Watashi. A Single Adaptive Mutation in Sodium Taurocholate Cotransporting Polypeptide Induced by Hepadnaviruses Determines Virus Species Specificity. Journal of virology. 2019 Mar 01;93(5)

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    PMID: 30541857

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