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J Virol. 1995 Nov;69(11):7264-8.

Active foamy virus proteinase is essential for virus infectivity but not for formation of a Pol polyprotein.

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Angewandte Tumorvirologie, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg, Germany.


To analyze proteolytic processing of foamy (spuma) retroviruses, two mutations were generated in the presumed active-site triplet Asp-Ser-Gly in the predicted proteinase (PR) region of the human foamy virus (HSRV). The mutations changed either the presumed catalytic aspartic acid residue to a catalytically incompetent alanine or the adjacent serine to a threonine found in most cellular and retroviral proteases at this position. Both mutations were cloned into the full-length infectious HSRV DNA clone. Wild-type and S/T mutant genomes directed the synthesis of particles with similar infectious titers, while the HSRV D/A PR mutant was noninfectious. Immunoblot analysis of transfected cells revealed identical patterns for the wild-type and for the S/T PR mutant. HSRV D/A mutant-transfected cells expressed only a single Gag polyprotein of 78 kDa instead of the 78-kDa-74-kDa doublet found in HSRV-infected or wild-type-transfected cells. Analysis with pol-specific antisera yielded a protein of approximately 120 kDa reactive with antisera against pol- but not gag-specific domains. No Gag-Pol polyprotein was detected in this study. Electron microscopy analysis of transfected cells showed heterogeneous particle morphology in the case of the D/A mutant, with particles of normal appearance and particles of aberrant size and shape. These results indicate that foamy viruses have an aspartic PR that is essential for infectivity but not for formation of the 120-kDa Pol polyprotein.

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