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J Mol Biol. 2002 Apr 19;318(1):149-59.

Functional interactions of nucleocapsid protein of feline immunodeficiency virus and cellular prion protein with the viral RNA.

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Department of Biomedicine, University of Pisa, I-56127 Pisa, Italy.


All lentiviruses and oncoretroviruses examined so far encode a major nucleic-acid binding protein (nucleocapsid or NC* protein), approximately 2500 molecules of which coat the dimeric RNA genome. Studies on HIV-1 and MoMuLV using in vitro model systems and in vivo have shown that NC protein is required to chaperone viral RNA dimerization and packaging during virus assembly, and proviral DNA synthesis by reverse transcriptase (RT) during infection. The human cellular prion protein (PrP), thought to be the major component of the agent causing transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE), was recently found to possess a strong affinity for nucleic acids and to exhibit chaperone properties very similar to HIV-1 NC protein in the HIV-1 context in vitro. Tight binding of PrP to nucleic acids is proposed to participate directly in the prion disease process. To extend our understanding of lentiviruses and of the unexpected nucleic acid chaperone properties of the human prion protein, we set up an in vitro system to investigate replication of the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), which is functionally and phylogenetically distant from HIV-1. The results show that in the FIV model system, NC protein chaperones viral RNA dimerization, primer tRNA(Lys,3) annealing to the genomic primer-binding site (PBS) and minus strand DNA synthesis by the homologous FIV RT. FIV NC protein is able to trigger specific viral DNA synthesis by inhibiting self-priming of reverse transcription. The human prion protein was found to mimic the properties of FIV NC with respect to primer tRNA annealing to the viral RNA and chaperoning minus strand DNA synthesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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