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Virology. 1999 Jul 5;259(2):392-401.

Retrovirus DNA termini bound by integrase communicate in trans for full-site integration in vitro.

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St. Louis University Health Sciences Center, Institute for Molecular Virology, 3681 Park Ave., St. Louis, 63110, USA.


Integration of linear retrovirus DNA involves the concerted insertion of the viral termini (full-site integration) into the host chromosome. We investigated the interactions that occur between long terminal repeat (LTR) termini bound by avian retrovirus integrase (IN) for full-site integration in vitro. Wild-type (wt) or mutant LTR donors that possess gain-of-function ("G") or loss-of-function ("L") for full-site integration activity were used. G LTR termini are characterized as having significantly higher strand transfer activity than the wt and the L LTR termini. L LTR mutations are classified as partially or extremely defective for strand transfer activity. The L mutations were further classified by their ability to either permit or block the assembly of G or wt LTR termini into nucleoprotein complexes capable of full-site strand transfer. We demonstrated that avian myeloblastosis virus IN bound to G LTR termini increased the incorporation of partially defective L LTR termini into nucleoprotein complexes that were capable of full-site integration. The observed full-site integration activity of these assembled nucleoprotein complexes appeared to be influenced by each individual IN-LTR complex in trans. In contrast, extremely defective L LTR termini exhibited the ability to effectively block the assembly of wt LTR termini into nucleoprotein complexes capable of full-site strand transfer. Data from nonspecific DNA competition experiments suggested that IN had an apparent higher affinity for G LTR donor termini than for partially defective L LTR donor termini as measured by full-site integration activity. However, assembled nucleoprotein complexes containing either two G or two L LTR donors were stable, having a similar half-life of approximately 2 h on ice. The results suggest that LTR termini bound by IN exhibit an allosteric effect to modulate full-site integration in vitro. Similar regulatory controls also appear to exist in vivo between the wt U3 and wt U5 LTR termini in retroviruses as well as purified retrovirus preintegration complexes that promoted full-site integration in vitro.

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