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Mammalian cells have evolved strategies to regulate gene expression when oxygen is limited. Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF) are the major transcriptional regulators of host gene expression. We previously reported that HIFs bind and activate hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA transcription under low oxygen conditions; however, the global cellular response to low oxygen is mediated by a family of oxygenases that work in concert with HIFs. Recent studies have identified a role for chromatin modifiers in sensing cellular oxygen and orchestrating transcriptional responses, but their role in the HBV life cycle is as yet undefined. We demonstrated that histone lysine demethylase 4 (KDM4) can restrict HBV, and pharmacological or oxygen-mediated inhibition of the demethylase increases viral RNAs derived from both episomal and integrated copies of the viral genome. Sequencing studies demonstrated that KDM4 is a major regulator of the hepatic transcriptome, which defines hepatocellular permissivity to HBV infection. We propose a model where HBV exploits cellular oxygen sensors to replicate and persist in the liver. Understanding oxygen-dependent pathways that regulate HBV infection will facilitate the development of physiologically relevant cell-based models that support efficient HBV replication.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





hepatitis B virus, histone lysine demethylase 4, hypoxia, liver, viral hepatitis