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Virology. 1996 Nov 15;225(2):306-15.

A specific RNA structural motif mediates high affinity binding by the HIV-1 nucleocapsid protein (NCp7).

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University of Colorado at Boulder, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, 80309-0347, USA.


Current research indicates that the nucleocapsid protein (NCp7) of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) interacts with a variety of RNA substrates during the progression of the viral life cycle. The RNA features specifically recognized by the protein, however, have yet to be identified. SELEX was used to generate a set of RNAs whose affinities for nucleocapsid were on the order of 2 x 10(-9) M. Comparative analysis revealed that each RNA contains a highly conserved fourteen nucleotide sequence-block. Computer modeling and structure probing experiments indicate that the RNA ligands use the consensus sequence to fold into hairpins with an identical asymmetric bulge. The presence of the nucleocapsid protein protects the asymmetric bulge from ribonuclease attack, suggesting that it is the key element in protein recognition. A search for similar structural motifs within the HIV genome reveals several potential interaction sites for the nucleocapsid protein.

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