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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2012 Jul;2(7):a006890. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a006890.

HIV DNA integration.

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Molecular Virology Section, NIDDK, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Retroviruses are distinguished from other viruses by two characteristic steps in the viral replication cycle. The first is reverse transcription, which results in the production of a double-stranded DNA copy of the viral RNA genome, and the second is integration, which results in covalent attachment of the DNA copy to host cell DNA. The initial catalytic steps of the integration reaction are performed by the virus-encoded integrase (IN) protein. The chemistry of the IN-mediated DNA breaking and joining steps is well worked out, and structures of IN-DNA complexes have now clarified how the overall complex assembles. Methods developed during these studies were adapted for identification of IN inhibitors, which received FDA approval for use in patients in 2007. At the chromosomal level, HIV integration is strongly favored in active transcription units, which may promote efficient viral gene expression after integration. HIV IN binds to the cellular factor LEDGF/p75, which promotes efficient infection and tethers IN to favored target sites. The HIV integration machinery must also interact with many additional host factors during infection, including nuclear trafficking and pore proteins during nuclear entry, histones during initial target capture, and DNA repair proteins during completion of the DNA joining steps. Models for some of the molecular mechanisms involved have been proposed, but important details remain to be clarified.

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