A variant of the serpin squamous cell carcinoma antigen (SCCA) has been identified as a hepatitis B virus binding protein and high expression of SCCA has recently been found in hepatocarcinoma. Since HBV is involved in liver carcinogenesis, experiments were carried out to examine the effect of HBV preS1 envelope protein on SCCA expression. Surface and intracellular staining for SCCA was assessed by FACS analysis. Preincubation of HepG2 cells and primary human hepatocytes with preS1 protein or with preS1(21-47) tetrameric peptide significantly increased the surface expression of SCCA, without modification of its overall cellular burden, suggesting a surface redistribution of the serpin. An increase in HBV binding and internalization was observed after pre-incubation of the cells with preS1 preparations, compared to cells preincubated with medium alone. Pretreatment of cells with DMSO, while not influencing SCCA basal expression, was responsible for an increase in the efficiency of HBV internalization and this effect was additive to that obtained after incubation with preS1 preparations. In conclusion, the HBV preS1(21-47) sequence is able to induce overexpression of SCCA at the cell surface facilitating virus internalization, while the increased efficiency of HBV entry following DMSO addition is not mediated by SCCA.
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