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J Virol. 2012 Dec;86(23):13038-48. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01675-12. Epub 2012 Sep 26.

Properties of the adeno-associated virus assembly-activating protein.

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German Cancer Research Center, Research Program Infection and Cancer, Heidelberg, Germany.


Adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsid assembly requires expression of the assembly-activating protein (AAP) together with capsid proteins VP1, VP2, and VP3. AAP is encoded by an alternative open reading frame of the cap gene. Sequence analysis and site-directed mutagenesis revealed that AAP contains two hydrophobic domains in the N-terminal part of the molecule that are essential for its assembly-promoting activity. Mutation of these sequences reduced the interaction of AAP with the capsid proteins. Deletions and a point mutation in the capsid protein C terminus also abolished capsid assembly and strongly reduced the interaction with AAP. Interpretation of these observations on a structural basis suggests an interaction of AAP with the VP C terminus, which forms the capsid protein interface at the 2-fold symmetry axis. This interpretation is supported by a decrease in the interaction of monoclonal antibody B1 with VP3 under nondenaturing conditions in the presence of AAP, indicative of steric hindrance of B1 binding to its C-terminal epitope by AAP. In addition, AAP forms high-molecular-weight oligomers and changes the conformation of nonassembled VP molecules as detected by conformation-sensitive monoclonal antibodies A20 and C37. Combined, these observations suggest a possible scaffolding activity of AAP in the AAV capsid assembly reaction.

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