Translation is not required to generate virion precursor RNA in human immunodeficiency virus type 1-infected T cells

M. Butsch, K. Boris-Lawrie

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54 Scopus citations


The retroviral primary transcription product is a multifunctional RNA that is utilized as pre-mRNA, mRNA, and genomic RNA. The relationship between human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) unspliced transcripts used as mRNA for viral protein synthesis and as virion precursor RNA (vpRNA) for encapsidation remains an important question. We developed a biochemical assay to evaluate the hypothesis that prior utilization as mRNA template for protein synthesis is necessary to generate vpRNA. HIV-1-infected T cells were treated with translation inhibitors under conditions that maintain virus production. Immunoprecipitation of newly synthesized HIV-1 Gag protein revealed that de novo translation is not necessary to sustain assembly, release, or processing of Gag structural protein. Both newly synthesized protein and steady-state Gag are competent for assembly, and the extracellular accumulation of Gag is proportional to the intracellular abundance of Gag. As early as 2 h after transcription, newly synthesized RNA is detectable in cell-free virions and encapsidation is sustained upon inhibition of host cell translation. Results of both [3H]uridine incorporation assays and HIV-1-specific RNase protection assays (RPAs) indicate that translation inhibition reduces the absolute amounts of both cytoplasmic and virion-associated RNA. Evaluation of encapsidation efficiency by RPA revealed that the cytoplasmic availability of vpRNA is increased, indicating that HIV-1 unspliced mRNA can be rerouted to function as vpRNA. Our data contrast with results from the HIV-2 and murine leukemia virus systems and indicate that HIV-1 unspliced RNA constitutes a single functional pool that can function interchangeably as mRNA and as vpRNA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11531-11537
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2000

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Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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