The Rous sarcoma virus Gag polyprotein transiently traffics through the nucleus, which is required for efficient incorporation of the viral genomic RNA (gRNA) into virus particles. Packaging of gRNA is mediated by two zinc knuckles and basic residues located in the nucleocapsid (NC) domain in Gag. To further examine the role of basic residues located downstream of the zinc knuckles in gRNA encapsidation, we used a gain-of-function approach. We replaced a basic residue cluster essential for gRNA packaging with heterologous basic residue motif (BR) with RNA-binding activity from either the HIV-1 Rev protein (Rev BR) or the HSV ICP27 protein (ICP27 BR). Compared to wild-type Gag, the mutant ICP27 BR and Rev BR Gag proteins were much more strongly localized to the nucleus and released significantly lower levels of virus particles. Surprisingly, both the ICP27 BR and Rev BR mutants packaged normal levels of gRNA per virus particle when examined in the context of a proviral vector, yet both mutants were noninfectious. These results support the hypothesis that basic residues located in the C-terminal region of NC are required for selective gRNA packaging, potentially by binding non-specifically to RNA via electrostatic interactions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases