Public Release: 

The FASEB Journal: Bile salt receptor linked to replication and repression of HBV virus

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Despite an efficient and well-tolerated vaccine, hepatitis B (HBV) remains a major public health problem, with more than 250 million people at high risk of developing liver cirrhosis and cancer as a result. HBV treatment must be given for life, as it does not produce long-term disease control. A new animal study published in The FASEB Journal reveals a significant link between HBV and the metabolic pathway of bile salts that could have implications for a new therapeutic strategy for HBV treatment.

To conduct the in vitro mouse study, a research team observed a line of liver cells. Within these cells, they observed that silencing the expression of Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR) (the main receptor of bile salts that regulates bile synthesis) repressed HBV replication. They then used an FXR agonist (a small molecule mimicking bile salt) to activate the receptor and examine its effect on HBV replication. Researchers found that the virus replication was less active in mice that received the molecule than in the control mice, confirming for the first time that an FXR agonist is capable of repressing HBV.

"This is quite a new concept that extends the role of bile salts in host physiology," said Patrice André, MD, PhD, a professor of virology at Charles Mérieux Lyon Sud Medical School within the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, and a researcher at Centre international de Recherche en Infectiologie, in Lyon, France. "FXR agonists could provide a better therapeutic approach that would relieve the burden of life-long therapy for HBV patients worldwide."

The study also found that young infected mice did not respond to treatment with the agonist as adult mice did. This finding suggests a potential link between the lack of bile salt pathway maturation and a higher risk of chronic infection in newborns and young infants.

"This unanticipated link with the bile salt receptor is both fascinating as basic science, as well as offering a potential new therapeutic opportunity," said Thoru Pederson, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.


The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). The world's most cited biology journal according to the Institute for Scientific Information, it has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century. Receive monthly highlights for The FASEB Journal; subscribe at

FASEB is composed of 30 societies with more than 130,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Our mission is to advance health and well-being by promoting research and education in biological and biomedical sciences through collaborative advocacy and service to our societies and their members.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.