Determining the Frequency and Mechanisms of HIV-1 and HIV-2 RNA Copackaging by Single-Virion Analysis

HIV Drug Resistance Program, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD 21702, USA.
Journal of Virology (Impact Factor: 4.44). 08/2011; 85(20):10499-508. DOI: 10.1128/JVI.05147-11
Source: PubMed


HIV-1 and HIV-2 are derived from two distinct primate viruses and share only limited sequence identity. Despite this, HIV-1 and HIV-2 Gag polyproteins can coassemble into the same particle and their genomes can undergo recombination, albeit at an extremely low frequency, implying that HIV-1 and HIV-2 RNA can be copackaged into the same particle. To determine the frequency of HIV-1 and HIV-2 RNA copackaging and to dissect the mechanisms that allow the heterologous RNA copackaging, we directly visualized the RNA content of each particle by using RNA-binding proteins tagged with fluorescent proteins to label the viral genomes. We found that when HIV-1 and HIV-2 RNA are present in viral particles at similar ratios, ∼10% of the viral particles encapsidate both HIV-1 and HIV-2 RNAs. Furthermore, heterologous RNA copackaging can be promoted by mutating the 6-nucleotide (6-nt) dimer initiation signal (DIS) to discourage RNA homodimerization or to encourage RNA heterodimerization, indicating that HIV-1 and HIV-2 RNA can heterodimerize prior to packaging using the DIS sequences. We also observed that the coassembly of HIV-1 and HIV-2 Gag proteins is not required for the heterologous RNA copackaging; HIV-1 Gag proteins are capable of mediating HIV-1 and HIV-2 RNA copackaging. These results define the cis- and trans-acting elements required for and affecting the heterologous RNA copackaging, a prerequisite for the generation of chimeric viruses by recombination, and also shed light on the mechanisms of RNA-Gag recognition essential for RNA encapsidation.

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