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Biochemistry. 2003 Mar 11;42(9):2634-42.

Elements located upstream and downstream of the major splice donor site influence the ability of HIV-2 leader RNA to dimerize in vitro.

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  • 1Division of Biological Sciences, The University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812, USA.

Abstract

An essential step in the replication cycle of all retroviruses is the dimerization of genomic RNA prior to or during budding and maturation of the viral particle. In HIV-1, a 5' leader region site termed stem-loop 1 (SL1) promotes RNA dimerization in vitro and influences dimerization in vivo. In HIV-2, two sequences promote dimerization of RNA fragments in vitro: the 5'-end of the primer-binding site (PBS) and a stem-loop region homologous to the HIV-1 SL1 sequence. Because HIV-2 RNA constructs of different lengths use these two dimerization signals disproportionately, we hypothesized that other sequences could modulate their relative utilization. Here, we characterized the influence of sequences upstream and downstream of the major splice donor site on the formation of HIV-2 RNA dimers in vitro using a variety of RNA constructs and dimerization and electrophoresis protocols. We first assayed the formation of loose or tight dimers for 1-444 and 1-561 model RNAs. Although both RNAs could form PBS-dependent loose dimers, the 1-561 RNA was unable to make SL1-dependent tight dimers. Using RNAs truncated at their 5'- and/or 3'-ends and by making compensatory base substitutions, we found that two elements interfere with the formation of SL1-dependent tight dimers. The cores of these elements are located at nucleotides 189-196 and 543-550. Our results suggest that base pairing between these sequences prevents the formation of SL1-dependent tight dimers, probably by sequestering SL1 in a stable intramolecular arrangement. Moreover, we found that nucleotides downstream of SL1 decreased the rate of tight dimerization. Interestingly, dimerization at 37 degrees C in the presence of nucleocapsid protein increased the yield of SL1-mediated tight dimerization in vitro, even in the presence of the two interfering elements, suggesting a relationship between the nucleocapsid protein and activation of the SL1 dimerization signal in vivo.

PMID:
12614158
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1473984
Free PMC Article

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