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Retrovirology. 2004 May 14;1:9.

Early steps of retrovirus replicative cycle.

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CNRS UPR9051, Hôpital Saint-Louis, 1 Avenue Claude Vellefaux, 75475 Paris cedex 10, France.


During the last two decades, the profusion of HIV research due to the urge to identify new therapeutic targets has led to a wealth of information on the retroviral replication cycle. However, while the late stages of the retrovirus life cycle, consisting of virus replication and egress, have been partly unraveled, the early steps remain largely enigmatic. These early steps consist of a long and perilous journey from the cell surface to the nucleus where the proviral DNA integrates into the host genome. Retroviral particles must bind specifically to their target cells, cross the plasma membrane, reverse-transcribe their RNA genome, while uncoating the cores, find their way to the nuclear membrane and penetrate into the nucleus to finally dock and integrate into the cellular genome. Along this journey, retroviruses hijack the cellular machinery, while at the same time counteracting cellular defenses. Elucidating these mechanisms and identifying which cellular factors are exploited by the retroviruses and which hinder their life cycle, will certainly lead to the discovery of new ways to inhibit viral replication and to improve retroviral vectors for gene transfer. Finally, as proven by many examples in the past, progresses in retrovirology will undoubtedly also provide some priceless insights into cell biology.

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