Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) utilizes several mechanisms to survive in the host cells and one of the main pathways being autophagosome formation. Humic acid (HA), one of the major components of Mineral pitch, is an Ayurvedic medicinal food, commonly used by the people of the Himalayan regions of Nepal and India for various body ailments. We hypothesized that HA could induce cell death and inhibit HBV-induced autophagy in hepatic cells. Incubation of Hep G18.104.22.168 cells (HepG2 cells stably expressing HBV) with HA (100 μM) inhibited both cell proliferation and autophagosome formation significantly, while apoptosis induction was enhanced. Western blot results showed that HA incubation resulted in decreased levels of beclin-1, SIRT-1 and c-myc, while caspase-3 and β-catenin expression were up-regulated. Western blot results showed that HA significantly inhibited the expression of HBx (3-fold with 50 μM and 5-fold with 100 μM) compared to control cells. When HA was incubated with HBx-transfected Hep G2 cells, HBx-induced autophagosome formation and beclin-1 levels were decreased. These data showed that HA induced apoptosis and inhibited HBV-induced autophagosome formation and proliferation in hepatoma cells.
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