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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29421. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029421. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

HIV Pol inhibits HIV budding and mediates the severe budding defect of Gag-Pol.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America.


The prevailing hypothesis of HIV budding posits that the viral Gag protein drives budding, and that the Gag p6 peptide plays an essential role by recruiting host-cell budding factors to sites of HIV assembly. HIV also expresses a second Gag protein, p160 Gag-Pol, which lacks p6 and fails to bud from cells, consistent with the prevailing hypothesis of HIV budding. However, we show here that the severe budding defect of Gag-Pol is not caused by the absence of p6, but rather, by the presence of Pol. Specifically, we show that (i) the budding defect of Gag-Pol is unaffected by loss of HIV protease activity and is therefore an intrinsic property of the Gag-Pol polyprotein, (ii) the N-terminal 433 amino acids of Gag and Gag-Pol are sufficient to drive virus budding even though they lack p6, (iii) the severe budding defect of Gag-Pol is caused by a dominant, cis-acting inhibitor of budding in the HIV Pol domain, and (iv) Gag-Pol inhibits Gag and virus budding in trans, even at normal levels of Gag and Gag-Pol expression. These and other data support an alternative hypothesis of HIV budding as a process that is mediated by the normal, non-viral pathway of exosome/microvesicle biogenesis.

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