- 1Department of Virology, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Augustusplatz, Mainz, Germany.
Viruses are obligate intracellular pathogens that utilize cellular machinery for many aspects of their propagation and effective egress of virus particles from host cells is one important determinant of virus infectivity. Hijacking host cell processes applies in particular to the hepatitis B virus (HBV), as its DNA genome with about 3 kb in size is one of the smallest viral genomes known. HBV is a leading cause of liver disease and still displays one of the most successful pathogens in human populations worldwide. The extremely successful spread of this virus is explained by its efficient transmission strategies and its versatile particle types, including virions, empty envelopes, naked capsids, and others. HBV exploits distinct host trafficking machineries to assemble and release its particle types including nucleocytoplasmic shuttling transport, secretory, and exocytic pathways, the Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport pathway, and the autophagy pathway. Understanding how HBV uses and subverts host membrane trafficking systems offers the chance of obtaining new mechanistic insights into the regulation and function of this essential cellular processes. It can also help to identify potential targets for antiviral interventions. Here, I will provide an overview of HBV maturation, assembly, and budding, with a focus on recent advances, and will point out areas where questions remain that can benefit from future studies. Unless otherwise indicated, almost all presented knowledge was gained from cell culture-based, HBV in vitro-replication and in vitro-infection systems.