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J Virol. 2001 Mar;75(6):2957-71.

Exchange of the basic domain of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Rev for a polyarginine stretch expands the RNA binding specificity, and a minimal arginine cluster is required for optimal RRE RNA binding affinity, nuclear accumulation, and trans-activation.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The Rev regulatory protein of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) facilitates the nuclear export of unspliced and partially spliced HIV RNAs. Using a Rev:MS2 phage coat protein fusion that could be targeted to bind and activate the Rev-responsive element (RRE) RNA or heterologous MS2 phage operator RNA, we analyzed the role(s) of the arginine-rich RNA binding domain in RNA binding and transactivation. The arginine-rich domain could be functionally replaced by a stretch of nine arginines. However, polyarginine substitutions expanded the RNA binding specificity of the resultant mutant Rev protein. Polyarginine insertions in place of residues 24 to 60 that excised the RNA binding and oligomerization domains of Rev preserved the activation for MS2 RNA, but not for the RRE. A nine-arginine insertion outside of the natural context of the Rev nuclear localization signal domain was incompatible with activation of either RNA target. Insertions of fewer than eight arginines impaired RRE activation. Interrupted lysine clusters and disruption of the arginine stretch with lysine or neutral residues resulted in a similar phenotype. Some of these mutants with a null phenotype for RRE activated the heterologous MS2 RNA target. Under steady-state conditions, mutants that preserved the Rev response for RRE RNA localized to the nuclei; those with poor or no Rev response accumulated mostly in the cytoplasm. Many of the cytoplasmically resident derivatives became nuclear when leptomycin B (LMB) treatment inhibited nuclear export of nuclear export signal-containing proteins. Mutants that had a null activation potential for either RNA target were particularly resistant to LMB treatment. Abbreviated nuclear residence times and differences in RRE binding affinity may have compromised their activation potential for RRE. High-affinity binding to MS2 RNA through the intact coat protein was sufficient to overcome the short nuclear residence times and to facilitate MS2 activation by some derivatives.

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