Role of human immunodeficiency virus type 1-specific protease in core protein maturation and viral infectivity

Peng, C.; Ho, B.K.; Chang, T.W.; Chang, N.T.

Journal of Virology 63(6): 2550-2556


ISSN/ISBN: 0022-538X
PMID: 2657099
Accession: 041285889

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It is generally believed that the gag gene product of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is processed into several core proteins by a virus-specific protease. We used deletion mutation analysis to study the role of HIV-specific protease in the processing of core proteins and its requirement for viral infectivity. Several mutant genomes with deletions in the protease gene were constructed. A mammalian cell line, COS-M6, transfected with the wild-type viral genome was shown to produce virions containing processed core proteins, while COS-M6 cells transfected with two mutated genomes could express only the core protein precursor, Pr56gag. The wild-type transfectant produced infectious virus; both transfectants expressing the mutated genomes also produced virions, and one of them still retained reverse transcriptase activity. However, the mutant viral particles were devoid of infectivity. Virions with a distinct central core and an electron-dense nucleoid budded out from the plasma membrane of COS-M6 cells transfected with the wild-type genome. In contrast, noninfectious virions that budded either into cytoplasmic vacuoles or out from the plasma membrane of COS-M6 cells transfected with mutant genomes contained ring-shaped nucleoids. These results indicate that the HIV-1 protease plays a role not only in the maturation of the core proteins but also in the assembly of the virus and thus is required for viral infectivity.