Endothelial cell-mediated uptake of a hepatitis B virus: A new concept of liver targeting of hepatotropic microorganisms

Klaus M. Breiner, Heinz Schaller, Percy A. Knolle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


The liver is a target for many infectious agents, most notably hepatitis viruses. However, several receptor molecules identified so far for hepatitis viruses were found to be ubiquitously expressed and can thus not account for efficient liver targeting. Using a model hepatitis B virus, the duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV), we have obtained data indicating that scavenging liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSEC), rather than hepatocytes themselves, play the key role in the initial uptake of viral pathogens into the liver. Experiments with fluorescent viral particles and coated gold particles in test animals, as well as in primary liver cell culture, demonstrated a preferential uptake of the viral substrates into LSEC. Intracellularly, fluorescent virus particles internalized by LSEC colocalized with the DHBV receptor, carboxypeptidase D, suggesting receptor-mediated rescue from lysosomal degradation. To comply with the high efficiency by which hepatitis B viruses infect hepatocytes in vivo, we propose that viruses initially scavenged by LSEC are thereafter released to infect adjacent hepatocytes, the only cells capable of replicating these viruses. Such a model of primary uptake into LSEC may illustrate a general mechanism by which blood-borne hepatotropic agents are targeted to the hepatocytes in the liver.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-808
Number of pages6
Issue number4 I
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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