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J Virol. 2012 Jan;86(1):214-25. doi: 10.1128/JVI.06197-11. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

Requirements for mouse mammary tumor virus Rem signal peptide processing and function.

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  • 1Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


Mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) encodes a Rev-like protein, Rem, which is involved in the nuclear export and expression of viral RNA. Previous data have shown that all Rev-like functions are localized to the 98-amino-acid signal peptide (SP) at the N terminus of MMTV Rem or envelope proteins. MMTV-SP uses endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD) for protein trafficking. Rem cleavage by signal peptidase in the ER is necessary for MMTV-SP function in a reporter assay, but many requirements for trafficking are not known. To allow detection and localization of both MMTV-SP and the C-terminal cleavage product, we prepared plasmids expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) tags. N-terminal Rem tagging led to protein accumulation relative to untagged Rem and allowed signal peptidase cleavage but reduced its specific activity. C-terminal tagging also led to Rem accumulation yet dramatically reduced cleavage, GFP fluorescence, and activity relative to N-terminally tagged Rem (GFPRem). Substitutions of an invariant leucine at position 71 between the known RNA-binding and nuclear export sequences interfered with GFPRem accumulation and activity but not cleavage. Similarly, deletion of 100 or 150 C-terminal amino acids from GFPRem dramatically reduced both Rem and MMTV-SP levels and function. Removal of the entire C terminus (203 amino acids) restored both protein levels and activity of MMTV-SP. Only C-terminal GFP tagging, and not other modifications, appeared to trap Rem in the ER membrane. Thus, Rem conformation in both the ER lumen and cytoplasm determines cleavage, retrotranslocation, and MMTV-SP function. These mutants further characterize intermediates in Rem trafficking and have implications for all proteins affected by ERAD.

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