Background & aims The sodium taurocholate co-transporting polypeptide (NTCP) is the entry receptor for the hepatitis B and delta virus (HBV/HDV) and the main hepatic uptake transporter of conjugated bile acids. Myrcludex B, a synthetic peptide mimicking the NTCP-binding domain of HBV, blocks HBV/HDV infection and inhibits NTCP-mediated bile acid uptake. In humans this increases systemic bile acid levels, which remain elevated for hours even after Myrcludex B is cleared from the circulation. Here, we investigated the dynamics of Myrcludex B-induced NTCP-mediated bile acid transport inhibition in mice and if/how the duration of this effect relates to NTCP protein turnover. Methods Plasma bile acids were determined in Myrcludex B-treated OATP1a/1b-deficient mice. In vitro, plasma membrane-resident NTCP was labeled with biotin or fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-labeled Myrcludex B and traced in time using hNTCP-overexpressing U2OS cells. Förster resonance energy transfer by fluorescent lifetime imaging microscopy was used to investigate whether Myrcludex B can transfer to newly synthesized NTCP. Results Conjugated bile salt levels in plasma peaked 4 h after subcutaneous Myrcludex B administration. After 24 h, plasma bile salt levels were completely normalized, in line with restored NTCP-mediated bile acid transport in vitro. Biotin-labeled NTCP disappeared faster than Myrcludex B-FITC, with almost 40% of FITC signal remaining after 24 h. FITC fluorescence lifetime was strongly decreased upon expression of DY547-labeled acyl carrier protein-tagged NTCP, demonstrating transfer of pre-bound Myrcludex B-FITC to newly formed NTCP. Conclusions The dynamics of NTCP protein turnover and Myrcludex B-induced plasma bile salt elevations are similar, suggesting that the Myrcludex B:NTCP interaction is very long-lived. Nevertheless, Myrcludex B is not completely degraded together with NTCP and can transfer to newly synthesized NTCP. Lay summary The experimental drug Myrcludex B binds the sodium taurocholate co-transporting polypeptide (NTCP), the viral entry receptor for the hepatitis B and D virus (HBV/HDV), and thereby prevents infection, but also inhibits hepatic bile salt uptake leading to transiently elevated bile salt levels. This study describes that while the normalization of plasma bile salt levels likely depends on the protein turnover rate of NTCP, Myrcludex B partly escapes co-degradation with NTCP by transferring from one NTCP molecule to another. This is of importance to the HBV/HDV research field as it provides a potential explanation for the distinct kinetics and dose-dependence of Myrcludex B's effects on viral infection versus bile salt transport.
Donkers, J. M., Appelman, M. D., & van de Graaf, S. F. J. (2019). Mechanistic insights into the inhibition of NTCP by myrcludex B. JHEP Reports, 1(4), 278–285. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhepr.2019.07.006