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J Virol. 2001 Jul;75(14):6527-36.

Insertion of capsid proteins from nonenveloped viruses into the retroviral budding pathway.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, 500 University Drive, Hershey, PA 17033, USA.


Retroviral Gag proteins direct the assembly and release of virus particles from the plasma membrane. The budding machinery consists of three small domains, the M (membrane-binding), I (interaction), and L (late or "pinching-off") domains. In addition, Gag proteins contain sequences that control particle size. For Rous sarcoma virus (RSV), the size determinant maps to the capsid (CA)-spacer peptide (SP) sequence, but it functions only when I domains are present to enable particles of normal density to be produced. Small deletions throughout the CA-SP sequence result in the release of particles that are very large and heterogeneous, even when I domains are present. In this report, we show that particles of relatively uniform size and normal density are released by budding when the size determinant and I domains in RSV Gag are replaced with capsid proteins from two unrelated, nonenveloped viruses: simian virus 40 and satellite tobacco mosaic virus. These results indicate that capsid proteins of nonenveloped viruses can interact among themselves within the context of Gag and be inserted into the retroviral budding pathway merely by attaching the M and L domains to their amino termini. Thus, the differences in the assembly pathways of enveloped and nonenveloped viruses may be far simpler than previously thought.

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