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J Virol. Feb 1992; 66(2): 840–847.
PMCID: PMC240784

Tightly bound zinc in human immunodeficiency virus type 1, human T-cell leukemia virus type I, and other retroviruses.


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) were purified by sucrose density gradient centrifugation in the presence of 1 mM EDTA. Pelleted gradient fractions were analyzed for total protein, total Gag capsid protein, and total zinc. Zinc was found to copurify and concentrate with the virus particles. Through successive cycles of resuspending in buffer containing EDTA and repelleting, the zinc content remained constant at about 1.7 mol of zinc per mol of Gag protein. Proteins from purified virus (HIV-1 and HTLV-I) were separated by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, blotted to polyvinylidene fluoride paper, and probed with 65ZnCl2. Viral nucleocapsid (NC) proteins (HIV-1 p7NC and HTLV-I p15NC) bound 65Zn2+. Other retroviruses, including simian immunodeficiency virus, equine infectious anemia virus, bovine leukemia virus, Moloney murine leukemia virus, mouse mammary tumor virus, and Mason-Pfizer monkey virus, were found to contain amounts of zinc per milligram of total protein similar to those found in HIV-1 and HTLV-I. Collectively, these data support the hypothesis that retroviral NC proteins function as zinc finger proteins in mature viruses.

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