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J Virol. 1996 Jun;70(6):3834-43.

Avian retroviral RNA element promotes unspliced RNA accumulation in the cytoplasm.

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Department of Biology, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA.


All retroviruses need mechanisms for nucleocytoplasmic export of their unspliced RNA and for maintenance of this RNA in the cytoplasm, where it is either translated to produce Gag and Pol proteins or packaged into viral particles. The complex retroviruses encode Rev or Rex regulatory proteins, which interact with cis-acting viral sequences to promote cytoplasmic expression of incompletely spliced viral RNAs. Since the simple retroviruses do not encode regulatory proteins, we proposed that they might contain cis-acting sequences that could interact with cellular Rev-like proteins. To test this possibility, we initially looked for a cis-acting sequence in avian retroviruses that could substitute for Rev and the Rev response element in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 expression constructs. A cis-acting element in the 3' untranslated region of Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) RNA was found to promote Rev-independent expression of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Gag proteins. This element was mapped between RSV nucleotides 8770 and 8925 and includes one copy of the direct repeat (DR) sequences flanking the RSV src gene; similar activity was observed for the upstream DR. To address the function of this element in RSV, both copies of the DR sequence were deleted. Subsequently, each DR sequence was inserted separately back into this deleted construct. While the viral construct lacking both DR sequences failed to replicate, constructs containing either the upstream or downstream DR replicated well. In the absence of both DRs, Gag protein levels were severely diminished and cytoplasmic levels of unspliced viral RNA were significantly reduced; replacement of either DR sequence led to normal levels of Gag protein and cytoplasmic unspliced RNA.

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