Chronic hepatitis D is the most severe form of chronic viral hepatitis and to date, efficient therapeutic approaches against hepatitis D virus (HDV) are limited. Among the antiviral molecules currently tested in clinical trials, the farnesyl transferase inhibitor (FTI) Lonafarnib inhibits the prenylation of the large delta antigen (L-HDAg), blocking virus assembly. Given the importance of L-HDAg in the virus life cycle, we hypothesized that Lonafarnib treatment may have side effects on virus replication. Here, we setup an innovative method for the quantification of HDV RNA allowing the independent quantification of edited and non-edited versions of the HDV genome upon infection. We demonstrated that FTI treatment of HBV/HDV co-infected dHepaRG or primary human hepatocytes leads to an accumulation of intracellular HDV RNAs and a marked increase in the levels of edited RNAs non only within the infected cells but also in the viral particles that are produced. Interestingly, these viral particles were less infectious, probably due to an enrichment in edited genomes that are packaged, leading to unproductive infection given the absence of S-HDAg synthesis after viral entry. Taken together, we setup an innovative quantification method allowing the investigation of RNA editing during HDV infection in a simple, fast, clinically-relevant assay and demonstrated for the first time the dual antiviral activity of FTI on HDV infection.
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