Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major health problem affecting about 300 million people globally. Although successful administration of a prophylactic vaccine has reduced new infections, a cure for chronic hepatitis B (CHB) is still unavailable. Current anti-HBV therapies slow down disease progression but are not curative as they cannot eliminate or permanently silence HBV covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA). The cccDNA minichromosome persists in the nuclei of infected hepatocytes where it forms the template for all viral transcription. Interactions between host factors and cccDNA are crucial for its formation, stability, and transcriptional activity. Here, we summarize the reported interactions between HBV cccDNA and various host factors and their implications on HBV replication. While the virus hijacks certain cellular processes to complete its life cycle, there are also host factors that restrict HBV infection. Therefore, we review both positive and negative regulation of HBV cccDNA by host factors and the use of small molecule drugs or sequence-specific nucleases to target these interactions or cccDNA directly. We also discuss several reporter-based surrogate systems that mimic cccDNA biology which can be used for drug library screening of cccDNA-targeting compounds as well as identification of cccDNA-related targets.
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