BACKGROUNDS & AIMS: As a result of the limited availability of in vivo models for hepatitis D virus (HDV), treatment options for HDV chronically infected patients are still scant. The discovery of sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP) as HDV entry receptor has enabled the development of new infection models.
AIM: To comparatively assess the efficacy and persistence of HDV mono-infection in murine and human hepatocytes in vivo.
METHODS: Mice with humanized NTCP (hNTCPed84-87 mice) were generated by editing amino acid residues 84-87 of murine NTCP in C57BL/6J mice. HDV infection was assessed in hNTCPed84-87 mice and in immune deficient uPA/SCID/beige (USB) mice, whose livers were reconstituted with human or murine (hNTCPed84-87 ) hepatocytes. Livers were analysed between 5 and 42 days post-HDV inoculation by qRT-PCR, immunofluorescence and RNA in situ hybridization (ISH).
RESULTS: hNTCPed84-87 mice could be infected with HDV genotype 1 or 3. ISH analysis demonstrated the presence of antigenomic HDV RNA positive murine hepatocytes with both genotypes, proving initiation of HDV replication. Strikingly, murine hepatocytes cleared HDV within 21 days both in immunocompetent hNTCPed84-87 mice and in immunodeficient USB mice xenografted with murine hepatocytes. In contrast, HDV infection remained stable for at least 42 days in human hepatocytes. Intrinsic innate responses were not enhanced in any of the HDV mono-infected cells and livers.
CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that in addition to NTCP, further species-specific factors limit HDV infection efficacy and persistence in murine hepatocytes. Identifying such species barriers may be crucial to develop novel potential therapeutic targets of HDV.