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J Virol. 2003 Jun;77(11):6293-304.

Transport of the intracisternal A-type particle Gag polyprotein to the endoplasmic reticulum is mediated by the signal recognition particle.

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  • 1Heinrich-Pette-Institut, D-20251 Hamburg, Germany.


Intracisternal A-type particles (IAP) are defective endogenous retroviruses that accumulate in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of rodent cells. The enveloped particles are produced by assembly and budding of IAP Gag polyproteins at the ER membrane. In this study, we analyzed the specific ER transport of the Gag polyprotein of the IAP element MIA14. To this end, we performed in vitro translation of Gag in the presence of microsomal membranes or synthetic proteoliposomes followed by membrane sedimentation or flotation. ER binding of IAP Gag occurred mostly cotranslationally, and Gag polyproteins interacted specifically with proteoliposomes containing only signal recognition particle (SRP) receptor and the Sec61p complex, which form the minimal ER translocation apparatus. The direct participation of SRP in ER targeting of IAP Gag was demonstrated in cross-linking and immunoprecipitation experiments. The IAP polyprotein was not translocated into the ER; it was found to be tightly associated with the cytoplasmic side of the ER membrane but did not behave as an integral membrane protein. Substituting the functional signal peptide of preprolactin for the hydrophobic sequence at the N terminus of IAP Gag also did not result in translocation of the chimeric protein into the ER lumen, and grafting the IAP hydrophobic sequence onto preprolactin failed to yield luminal transport as well. These results suggest that the N-terminal hydrophobic region of the IAP Gag polyprotein functions as a transport signal which mediates SRP-dependent ER targeting, but polyprotein translocation or integration into the membrane is prevented by the signal sequence itself and by additional regions of Gag.

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