The CCCTC-binding factor CTCF represses hepatitis B virus Enhancer I and regulates viral transcription

Valentina D'Arienzo, Jack Ferguson, Guillaume Giraud, Fleur Chapus, James Harris, Peter Wing, Adam Claydon, Sophia Begum, Xiaodong Zhuang, Peter Balfe, Barbara Testoni, Jane A McKeating, Jo Parish

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Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is of global importance with over 2 billion people exposed to the virus during their lifetime and at risk of progressive liver disease, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. HBV is a member of the Hepadnaviridae family that replicates via episomal copies of a covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) genome. The chromatinization of this small viral genome, with overlapping open reading frames and regulatory elements, suggests an important role for epigenetic pathways to regulate viral transcription. The chromatin-organising transcriptional insulator protein CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) has been reported to regulate transcription in a diverse range of viruses. We identified two conserved CTCF binding sites in the HBV genome within Enhancer I and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analysis demonstrated an enrichment of CTCF binding to integrated or episomal copies of the viral genome. siRNA knockdown of CTCF results in a significant increase in pregenomic RNA levels in de novo infected HepG2 cells and those supporting episomal HBV DNA replication. Furthermore, mutation of these sites in HBV DNA minicircles abrogated CTCF binding and increased pre-genomic RNA levels, providing evidence of a direct role for CTCF in repressing HBV transcription.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13274
JournalCellular Microbiology
Early online date1 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Oct 2020


  • CTCF
  • HBV
  • epigenetics
  • transcription insulation
  • transcription regulation


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