Retrovirus maturation involves sequential cleavages of the Gag polyprotein, initially arrayed in a spherical shell, leading to formation of capsids with polyhedral or conical morphology. Evidence suggests that capsids assemble de novo inside maturing virions from dissociated capsid (CA) protein, but the possibility persists of a displacive pathway in which the CA shell remains assembled but is remodeled. Inhibition of the final cleavage between CA and spacer peptide SP1/SP blocks the production of mature capsids. We investigated whether retention of SP might render CA assembly incompetent by testing the ability of Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) CA-SP to assemble in vitro into icosahedral capsids. Capsids were indeed assembled and were indistinguishable from those formed by CA alone, indicating that SP was disordered. We also used cryo-electron tomography to characterize HIV-1 particles produced in the presence of maturation inhibitor PF-46396 or with the cleavage-blocking CA5 mutation. Inhibitor-treated virions have a shell that resembles the CA layer of the immature Gag shell but is less complete. Some CA protein is generated but usually not enough for a mature core to assemble. We propose that inhibitors like PF-46396 bind to the Gag lattice where they deny the protease access to the CA-SP1 cleavage site and prevent the release of CA. CA5 particles, which exhibit no cleavage at the CA-SP1 site, have spheroidal shells with relatively thin walls. It appears that this lattice progresses displacively toward a mature-like state but produces neither conical cores nor infectious virions. These observations support the disassembly- reassembly pathway for core formation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science