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J Gen Virol. 2014 May;95(Pt 5):1156-66. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.060053-0. Epub 2014 Feb 7.

Phosphorylation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 capsid protein at serine 16, required for peptidyl-prolyl isomerase-dependent uncoating, is mediated by virion-incorporated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutical Biochemistry, Faculty of Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kumamoto University, Kumamoto 862-0973, Japan.


We reported previously that Pin1 facilitates human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) uncoating by interacting with the capsid core through the phosphorylated Ser(16)-Pro(17) motif. However, the specific kinase responsible for Ser(16) phosphorylation has remained unknown. Here, we showed that virion-associated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2 (ERK2) phosphorylates Ser(16). The characterization of immature virions produced by exposing chronically HIV-1LAV-1-infected CEM/LAV-1 cells to 10 ┬ÁM saquinavir indicated that Ser(16) is phosphorylated after the initiation of Pr55(Gag) processing. Furthermore, a mass spectrometry-based in vitro kinase assay demonstrated that ERK2 specifically phosphorylated the Ser(16) residue in the Ser(16)-Pro(17) motif-containing substrate. The treatment of CEM/LAV-1 cells with the ERK2 inhibitor sc-222229 decreased the Ser(16) phosphorylation level inside virions, and virus partially defective in Ser(16) phosphorylation showed impaired reverse transcription and attenuated replication owing to attenuated Pin1-dependent uncoating. Furthermore, the suppression of ERK2 expression by RNA interference in CEM/LAV-1 cells resulted in suppressed ERK2 packaging inside virions and decreased the Ser(16) phosphorylation level inside virions. Interestingly, the ERK2-packaging-defective virus showed impaired reverse transcription and attenuated HIV-1 replication. Taken together, these findings provide insights into the as-yet-obscure processes in Pin1-dependent HIV-1 uncoating.

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