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J Biol Chem. 2003 Oct 31;278(44):43188-201. Epub 2003 Jul 23.

Structural characterization of the HIV-1 Vpr N terminus: evidence of cis/trans-proline isomerism.

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Department of Structural Biology, Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany.


The 96-residue human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) accessory protein Vpr serves manifold functions in the retroviral life cycle including augmentation of viral replication in non-dividing host cells, induction of G2 cell cycle arrest, and modulation of HIV-induced apoptosis. Using a combination of dynamic light scattering, circular dichroism, and NMR spectroscopy the N terminus of Vpr is shown to be a unique domain of the molecule that behaves differently from the C-terminal domain in terms of self-association and secondary structure folding. Interestingly, the four highly conserved proline residues in the N terminus are predicted to have a high propensity for cis/trans isomerism. Thus the high resolution structure and folding of a synthetic N-terminal peptide (Vpr1-40) and smaller fragments thereof have been investigated. 1H NMR data indicate Vpr1-40 possesses helical structure between residues 17-32, and for the first time, this helix, which is bound by proline residues, was observed even in aqueous solution devoid of any detergent supplements. In addition, NMR data revealed that all of the proline residues undergo a cis/ trans isomerism to such an extent that approximately 40% of all Vpr molecules possess at least one proline in a cis conformation. This phenomenon of cis/trans isomerism, which is unprecedented for HIV-1 Vpr, not only provides an explanation for the molecular heterogeneity observed in the full-length molecule but also indicates that in vivo the folding and function of Vpr should depend on a cis/trans-proline isomerase activity, particularly as two of the proline residues in positions 14 and 35 show considerable amounts of cis isomers. This prediction correlates well with our recent observation (Zander, K., Sherman, M. P., Tessmer, U., Bruns, K., Wray, V., Prechtel, A. T., Schubert, E., Henklein, P., Luban, J., Neidleman, J., Greene, W. C., and Schubert, U. (2003) J. Biol. Chem. 278, 43170-43181) of a functional interaction between the major cellular isomerase cyclophilin A and Vpr, both of which are incorporated into HIV-1 virions.

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