Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection remains a global public health problem. Nearly 257 million people worldwide have been infected with HBV, resulting in 887,000 people dying of cirrhosis or liver cancer caused by chronic hepatitis B (CHB) annually. Therefore, identification of new targets against HBV is urgently needed. Long noncoding RNAs (LncRNAs) have gained widespread attention in recent years due to their function in cancer, inflammation and other diseases. Notably, a growing number of lncRNAs have been found to play a role in HBV development. In the present study, we first identified a famous lncRNA, HOTAIR, which was significantly up-regulated in HBV-infected cells and PBMCs from CHB patients. Furthermore, we evaluated the clinical relevance of HOTAIR in 20 CHB patients and found that higher levels of HOTAIR expression were associated with higher ALT/AST levels and were positively correlated with HBsAg and HBV DNA levels. In addition, functional analysis showed that HOTAIR promoted HBV transcription and replication by elevating the activities of HBV promoters via modulation of the levels of cccDNA-bound SP1. In conclusion, our study reveals that HOTAIR expression is correlated with the clinicopathological and physiological characteristics of HBV. Thus, HOTAIR may serve as a novel HBV diagnostic and therapeutic biomarker based on its ability to facilitate HBV transcription and replication.

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