Biochemistry and Biophysics Reports (2020-07-01)

EGF receptor inhibitors comprehensively suppress hepatitis B virus by downregulation of STAT3 phosphorylation

  • Chong J. Gan,
  • Wen F. Li,
  • Chun N. Li,
  • Ling L. Li,
  • Wen Y. Zhou,
  • Xiao M. Peng

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 22


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Current antiviral therapy can not cure chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection or eliminate the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. The licensed epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors have found to inhibit hepatitis C virus replication via downregulation of signal transducers and activators of transcription 3 (STAT3) phosphorylation. Since STAT3 is also involved in HBV replication, we further studied the anti-HBV efficacy of the EGFR inhibitors in this study. HBV-transfected HepG2.2.15 cells and HBV-infected HepG2-NTCP cells were used as cell models, and HBV replication, the syntheses of viral antigens and the magnitude of the covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) reservoir were used as indictors to test the anti-HBV effects of EGFR inhibitors erlotinib and gefitinib. Erlotinib inhibited HBV replication with a half-maximal inhibitory concentration of 1.05 μM. It also reduced the syntheses of viral antigens at concentrations of 2.5 μM or higher. The underlying mechanism was possibly correlated with its inhibition on STAT3 phosphorylation via up-regulation of suppressor of cytokine signaling 3. Gefitinib also inhibited HBV replication and antigen syntheses. Compared with the commonest antiviral drug entecavir, these EGFR inhibitors additionally reduced hepatitis B e antigen and erlotinib also marginally affected the cccDNA reservoir in HBV-infected HepG2-NTCP cells. Interestingly, these promising anti-HBV effects were significantly enhanced by extension of treatment duration. In conclusion, EGFR inhibitors demonstrated a comprehensive anti-HBV potential, highlighting a new strategy to cure HBV infection and suggesting animal model-related studies or clinical try in the future.