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J Virol. 1985 Mar;53(3):899-907.

A deletion mutation in the 5' part of the pol gene of Moloney murine leukemia virus blocks proteolytic processing of the gag and pol polyproteins.


Deletion mutations in the 5' part of the pol gene of Moloney murine leukemia virus were generated by restriction enzyme site-directed mutagenesis of cloned proviral DNA. DNA sequence analysis indicated that one such deletion was localized entirely within the 5' part of the pol gene, did not affect the region encoding reverse transcriptase, and preserved the translational reading frame downstream of the mutation. The major viral precursor polyproteins (Pr65gag, Pr200gag-pol, and gPr80env) were synthesized at wild-type levels in cell lines carrying the mutant genome. These cell lines assembled and released wild-type levels of virion particles into the medium. Cleavage of both Pr65gag and Pr200gag-pol precursors to the mature proteins was completely blocked in the mutant virions. Surprisingly, these virions contained high levels of active reverse transcriptase; examination of the endogenous reverse transcription products synthesized by the mutant virions revealed normal amounts of minus-strand strong-stop DNA, indicating that the RNA genome was packaged and that reverse transcription in detergent-permeabilized virions was not significantly impaired. Processing of gPr80env to gP70env and P15E was not affected by the mutation, but cleavage of P15E to P12E was not observed. The mutant particles were poorly infectious; analysis indicated that infection was blocked at an early stage. The data are consistent with the idea that the 5' part of the pol gene encodes a protease directly responsible for processing Pr65gag, and possibly Pr200gag-pol, to the structural virion proteins. It appears that cleavage of the gag gene product is not required for budding and release of virions and that complete processing of the pol gene product to the mature form of reverse transcriptase is not required for its functional activation.

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