Hypericin was found to be active against a member of the hepatitis B virus family, duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV). After a single 1 h incubation with hypericin, cells stably-transfected with a clone of DHBV stopped producing infectious virus for several days, though virus-like particles continued to be released into the culture medium. Characterization of these virions revealed a buoyant density characteristic of infectious virus preparations and lower than that of virus cores, suggesting that the particles were enveloped. Western blot analysis suggested, however, that the viral preS protein in surface antigen particles and, by inference, in virions, was present in covalently cross-linked aggregates. Evidence of a similar level of aggregation of the core subunit of virion nucleocapsids was not found, nor was there evidence of a similar high level of aggregation of cell-associated core and preS proteins. Hypericin was only slightly virucidal against DHBV and culture medium from treated cultures did not block initiation of infection when added to DHBV susceptible cultures prior to a challenge with infectious DHBV. Thus, the primary antiviral activity of hypericin against DHBV replication appears to be exerted at a late step in viral morphogenesis.
- Duck Hepatitis B virus
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