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Life Sci. 2001 Oct 26;69(23):2697-709.

Retroviral RNA elements integrate components of post-transcriptional gene expression.

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  • 1Cente for Retrovirus Research, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210-1093, USA.


Retroviruses vary widely in their ability to cause neoplastic transformation or immunodeficiency, and may even lack pathogenicity, but all retroviruses require cytoplasmic expression of intron-containing mRNA. In the cytoplasm, the primary viral transcript has two essential roles as mRNA template for protein synthesis and as genomic RNA for packaging into progeny virions. Cellular proteins are used by the virus to modulate synthesis, processing, and translation of the viral RNA. To subvert the normal RNA processing cascade and achieve nuclear export of intron-containing viral RNA, retroviruses utilize structured RNA elements and viral or cellular protein partners. These nuclear interactions determine the cytoplasmic fate of viral RNAs by facilitating RNA stability, nuclear export, translational efficiency, and even assembly of progeny virions. The HIV Rev responsive element (RRE) and Rev protein have been a informative paradigm for dissection of the process of eukaryotic RNA nuclear export. Rev is an adapter protein that bridges RRE-containing RNA and the CRM1 nuclear export receptor, which delivers intron-containing RNA to a nuclear export pathway typically used for 5s rRNA and protein transport. This review summarizes data indicating that Rev/RRE also targets cytoplasmic transcripts to the cytoskeletal polysomes and activates their translational efficiency. The interesting parallel is discussed that genetically simpler retroviruses lack a Rev-like protein and recruit cellular proteins to distinct RNA elements that modulate post-transcriptional gene expression through different export pathways. These pathways include the global mRNA export pathway mediated by Tap, and Tap- and CRM1-independent pathways. The CRM1-independent nuclear export pathway accessed by the spleen necrosis virus post-transcriptional control element is functionally linked to RU5-mediated translational enhancement in the cytoplasm. The simple retroviral post-transcriptional control elements also modulate RNA splicing efficiency, stability, assembly of virions, and subsequent viral egress from the cell. Thus, multiple layers of post-transcriptional control are executed by these retroviral RNA elements, which serve as a compact platform for interaction with nuclear and possibly cytoplasmic protein partners. Further characterization of the cellular partners and their regulation will be an important step to full understanding of nuclear-cytoplasmic connections that hardwire post-transcriptional gene expression in eukaryotic cells.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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