Hepaptitis B virus (HBV) likes liver cells (hepatocytes). In fact, it likes them so much it won’t grow anywhere else. The reason for this close connection is because the receptor this virus needs to infect cells is only found on hepatocytes. In a new study, scientists have finally identifed what that receptor is: sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP).
Well for a start this makes it much easier to study basic virus cell entry and replication mechanisms, and to set up large-scale drug screening. And ultimately that might lead to new drugs and ways of preventing HBV infection. Without such basic knowledge, there are few advances other than lucky breaks.
The receptor that allows hepatitis B and hepatitis D viruses to enter human liver cells has been identified as a protein that transports bile acids in the liver.