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Biophys J. 2013 Nov 19;105(10):2262-72. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.09.047.

Identification of pauses during formation of HIV-1 virus like particles.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah; Center for Cell and Genome Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.


HIV Gag polymerizes on the plasma membrane to form virus like particles (VLPs) that have similar diameters to wild-type viruses. We use multicolor, dual-penetration depth, total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, which corrects for azimuthal movement, to image the assembly of individual VLPs from the time of nucleation to the recruitment of VPS4 (a component of the endosomal sorting complexes required for transport, and which marks the final stage of VLP assembly). Using a mathematical model for assembly and maximum-likelihood comparison of fits both with and without pauses, we detect pauses during Gag polymerization in 60% of VLPs. Pauses range from 2 to 20 min, with an exponentially distributed duration that is independent of cytosolic Gag concentration. VLPs assembled with late domain mutants of Gag (which do not recruit the key endosomal sorting complexes required for transport proteins Alix or TSG101) exhibit similar pause distributions. These pauses indicate that a single rate-limiting event is required for continuation of assembly. We suggest that pauses are either related to incorporation of defects in the hexagonal Gag lattice during VLP assembly or are caused by shortcomings in interactions of Gag with essential and still undefined cellular components during formation of curvature on the plasma membrane.

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