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J Virol. 2002 Apr;76(7):3240-7.

Ty5 gag mutations increase retrotransposition and suggest a role for hydrogen bonding in the function of the nucleocapsid zinc finger.

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Department of Zoology and Genetics, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011, USA.


The Ty5 retrotransposon of Saccharomyces paradoxus transposes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae at frequencies 1,000-fold lower than do the native Ty1 elements. The low transposition activity of Ty5 could be due to differences in cellular environments between these yeast species or to naturally occurring mutations in Ty5. By screening of a Ty5 mutant library, two single mutants (D252N and Y68C) were each found to increase transposition approximately sixfold. When combined, transposition increased 36-fold, implying that the two mutations act independently. Neither mutation affected Ty5 protein synthesis, processing, cDNA recombination, or target site choice. However, cDNA levels in both single mutants and the double mutant were significantly higher than in the wild type. The D252N mutation resides in the zinc finger of nucleocapsid and increases the potential for hydrogen bonding with nucleic acids. We generated other mutations that increase the hydrogen bonding potential (i.e., D252R and D252K) and found that they similarly increased transposition. This suggests that hydrogen bonding within the zinc finger motif is important for cDNA production and builds upon previous studies implicating basic amino acids flanking the zinc finger as important for zinc finger function. Although NCp zinc fingers differ from the zinc finger motifs of cellular enzymes, the requirement for efficient hydrogen bonding is likely universal.

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