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Development of HBV S gene mutants in chronic hepatitis B patients receiving nucleotide/nucleoside analogue therapy

Chau-Ting Yeh

Corresponding author name: Chau-Ting Yeh
Corresponding author e-mail: chautingy@gmail.com

Citation: Antiviral Therapy 2010; 15:471-475
doi: 10.3851/IMP1552

Date accepted: 15 August 2009
Date published online: 28 May 2010


Structurally modified nucleotide/nucleoside analogues can exert potent inhibitory effect on HBV polymerase activities. Some of these agents have been approved for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B. Because of a high risk of reactivation upon drug withdrawal, continuous long-term therapy is recommended to maintain maximal viral suppression. Consequently, drug resistance has developed in a significant proportion of patients. During long-term therapy, mutations occur not only in the polymerase gene but also in the S gene, resulting in the emergence of surface protein mutants. Two types of surface protein mutants are recognized. The first type arises as a result of amino acid substitutions caused by primary and compensatory resistance mutations in the polymerase gene, which concomitantly generate S gene mutations owing to overlapping S and polymerase genes. The second type occurs because of prolonged viral suppression leading to seroclearance of HBV surface antigen, where vaccine-escape-like mutants might be selected. The second type of mutants does not possess primary resistance mutations in the polymerase gene. Some drug-related S gene mutations are nonsense mutations, leading to truncation of the surface proteins. Among them, the rtA181T/sW172* mutant has a dominant negative secretion effect as well as an increased oncogenic potential. The clinical consequences of infection by these S gene mutants demand further clarification. Judicious selection of the antiviral agents and vigilant monitoring of viral mutants during the course of therapy are advised.


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