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J Virol. 1993 Jul;67(7):3997-4005.

Packaging of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 RNA requires cis-acting sequences outside the 5' leader region.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital, United Kingdom.


cis elements required for the encapsidation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) RNA have been investigated by using a replication-competent helper virus to package a series of HIV-1-based vectors which had been stably transfected into human CD4 T-cell lines. A previously identified packaging signal in the 5' leader region was not sufficient for the encapsidation of small vectors containing heterologous genes. In contrast, vectors containing additional gag and env sequences were packaged with high efficiency and transduced into CD4-expressing target cells with titers exceeding 10(4) CFU/ml. The presence of gag sequences did not enhance vector packaging efficiency. A 1.1-kb env gene fragment encompassing the Rev-responsive element was absolutely required for the expression and encapsidation of vectors containing cis-acting repressive sequences and appeared also to contain an important packaging signal. Vectors as small as 2.6 kb were successfully packaged in this system. The presence of abundant, packageable vector RNA did not appear to interfere with encapsidation of the wild-type HIV-1 genome, suggesting that HIV-1 RNA packaging capacity is not saturated during acute infection.

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