APOBEC3 multimerization correlates with HIV-1 packaging and restriction activity in living cells

Jinhui Li, Yan Chen, Ming Li, Michael A. Carpenter, Rebecca M. McDougle, Elizabeth M. Luengas, Patrick J. Macdonald, Reuben S. Harris, Joachim D. Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


APOBEC3G belongs to a family of DNA cytosine deaminases that are involved in the restriction of a broad number of retroviruses including human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). Prior studies have identified two distinct mechanistic steps in Vif-deficient HIV-1 restriction: packaging into virions and deaminating viral cDNA. APOBEC3A, for example, although highly active, is not packaged and is therefore not restrictive. APOBEC3G, on the other hand, although having weaker enzymatic activity, is packaged into virions and is strongly restrictive. Although a number of studies have described the propensity for APOBEC3 oligomerization, its relevance to HIV-1 restriction remains unclear. Here, we address this problem by examining APOBEC3 oligomerization in living cells using molecular brightness analysis. We find that APOBEC3G forms high-order multimers as a function of protein concentration. In contrast, APOBEC3A, APOBEC3C and APOBEC2 are monomers at all tested concentrations. Among other members of the APOBEC3 family, we show that the multimerization propensities of APOBEC3B, APOBEC3D, APOBEC3F and APOBEC3H (haplotype II) bear more resemblance to APOBEC3G than to APOBEC3A/3C/2. Prior studies have shown that all of these multimerizing APOBEC3 proteins, but not the monomeric family members, have the capacity to package into HIV-1 particles and restrict viral infectivity. This correlation between oligomerization and restriction is further evidenced by two different APOBEC3G mutants, which are each compromised for multimerization, packaging and HIV-1 restriction. Overall, our results imply that multimerization of APOBEC3 proteins may be related to the packaging mechanism and ultimately to virus restriction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1296-1307
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 20 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants P01 GM091743 to R.S.H. and R01 GM064589 and NSF PHY-0346782 to J.D.M.


  • brightness
  • fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy
  • mobility
  • molecular mass complex


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