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J Virol. Sep 1997; 71(9): 6339–6347.
PMCID: PMC191907

Nuclear import, virion incorporation, and cell cycle arrest/differentiation are mediated by distinct functional domains of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Vpr.

Abstract

The vpr gene product of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is a virion-associated protein that is essential for efficient viral replication in monocytes/macrophages. Vpr is primarily localized in the nucleus when expressed in the absence of other viral proteins. Vpr is packaged efficiently into viral particles through interactions with the p6 domain of the Gag precursor polyprotein p55gag. We developed a panel of expression vectors encoding Vpr molecules mutated in the amino-terminal helical domain, leucine-isoleucine (LR) domain, and carboxy-terminal domain to map the different functional domains and to define the interrelationships between virion incorporation, nuclear localization, cell cycle arrest, and differentiation functions of Vpr. We observed that substitution mutations in the N-terminal domain of Vpr impaired both nuclear localization and virion packaging, suggesting that the helical structure may play a vital role in modulating both of these biological properties. The LR domain was found to be involved in the nuclear localization of Vpr. In contrast, cell cycle arrest appears to be largely controlled by the C-terminal domain of Vpr. The LR and C-terminal domains do not appear to be essential for virion incorporation of Vpr. Interestingly, we found that two Vpr mutants harboring single amino acid substitutions (A30L and G75A) retained the ability to translocate to the nucleus but were impaired in the cell cycle arrest function. In contrast, mutation of Leu68 to Ser resulted in a protein that localizes in the cytoplasm while retaining the ability to arrest host cell proliferation. We speculate that the nuclear localization and cell cycle arrest functions of Vpr are not interrelated and that these functions are mediated by separable putative functional domains of Vpr.

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Selected References

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