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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Sep 30;100(20):11678-83. Epub 2003 Sep 22.

Functional characterization of a portion of the Moloney murine leukemia virus gag gene by genetic footprinting.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 630 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Retroviral Gag proteins perform important functions in viral assembly, but are also involved in other steps in the viral life cycle. Conventional mutational analysis has yielded considerable information about domains essential for these functions, yet many regions of gag remain uncharacterized. We used genetic footprinting, a technique that permits the generation and simultaneous analysis of large numbers of mutations, to perform a near-saturation mutagenesis and functional analysis of 639 nucleotides in the gag region of Moloney murine leukemia virus. We report here the resulting functional map defined by eight footprints representing regions of Moloney murine leukemia virus gag, some previously uncharacterized, that are essential for replication. We found that significant portions of matrix and p12 proteins were tolerant of insertions, in contrast to the N-terminal half of capsid, which was not. We analyzed 30 mutants from our library by using conventional methods to validate the footprints. Six of these mutants were characterized in detail, identifying the precise stage at which their replication is blocked. In addition to providing the most comprehensive functional map of a retroviral gag gene, our study demonstrates the abundance of information that can be gleaned by genetic footprinting of viral sequences.

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