5-Azacytidine (5-aza-C) is a ribonucleoside analog that induces the lethal mutagenesis of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) by causing predominantly G-to-C transversions during reverse transcription. 5-Aza-C could potentially act primarily as a ribonucleotide (5-aza-CTP) or as a deoxyribonucleotide (5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine triphosphate [5-aza-dCTP]) during reverse transcription. In order to determine the primary form of 5-aza-C that is active against HIV-1, Illumina sequencing was performed using proviral DNA from cells treated with 5-aza-C or 5-aza-dC. 5-Aza-C and 5-aza-dC were found to induce highly similar patterns of mutation in HIV-1 in terms of the types of mutations observed, the magnitudes of effects, and the distributions of mutations at individual sequence positions. Further, 5-aza-dCTP was detected by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry in cells treated with 5-aza-C, demonstrating that 5-aza-C was a substrate for ribonucleotide reductase. Notably, levels of 5-aza-dCTP were similar in cells treated with equivalent effective concentrations of 5-aza-C or 5-aza-dC. Lastly, HIV-1 reverse transcriptase was found to incorporate 5-aza-CTP in vitro at least 10,000-fold less efficiently than 5-aza-dCTP. Taken together, these data support the model that 5-aza-C enhances the mutagenesis of HIV-1 primarily after reduction to 5-aza-dC, which can then be incorporated during reverse transcription and lead to G-to-C hypermutation. These findings may have important implications for the design of new ribonucleoside analogs directed against retroviruses.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
HHS | National Institutes of Health (NIH) provided funding to Louis M. Mansky under grant number R01 GM105876. HHS | National Institutes of Health (NIH) provided funding to Jonathan M. O. Rawson under grant number T32 AI83196. HHS | National Institutes of Health (NIH) provided funding to Jonathan Rawson under grant number F31 DA035720. This research was funded by fellowships (to J.M.O.R. and S.R.L.) from the University of Minnesota Graduate School. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
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