alexa A mutant tat protein inhibits HIV-1 reverse transcription by targeting the reverse transcription complex.


Virology & Mycology

Author(s): Lin MH, Apolloni A, Cutillas V, Sivakumaran H, Martin S,

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Abstract Previously, we reported that a mutant of Tat referred to as Nullbasic inhibits HIV-1 reverse transcription although the mechanism of action is unknown. Here we show that Nullbasic is a reverse transcriptase (RT) binding protein that targets the reverse transcription complex rather than directly inhibiting RT activity. An interaction between Nullbasic and RT was observed by using coimmunoprecipitation and pulldown assays, and a direct interaction was measured by using a biolayer interferometry assay. Mixtures of recombinant 6×His-RT and Nullbasic-FLAG-V5-6×His at molar ratios of up to 1:20,000 did not inhibit RT activity in standard homopolymer primer template assays. An analysis of virus made by cells that coexpressed Nullbasic showed that Nullbasic copurified with virus particles, indicating that it was a virion protein. In addition, analysis of reverse transcription complexes (RTCs) isolated from cells infected with wild type or Nullbasic-treated HIV-1 showed that Nullbasic reduced the levels of viral DNA in RTC fractions. In addition, a shift in the distribution of viral DNA and CAp24 to less-dense non-RTC fractions was observed, indicating that RTC activity from Nullbasic-treated virus was impaired. Further analysis showed that viral cores isolated from Nullbasic-treated HIV undergo increased disassembly in vitro compared to untreated HIV-1. To our knowledge, this is the first description of an antiviral protein that inhibits reverse transcription by targeting the RTC and affecting core stability. IMPORTANCE: HIV-1 infection is treated by using combinations of antiretroviral drugs that target independent steps of virus replication. A newly described antiviral protein called Nullbasic can also inhibit a combination of different steps in virus replication (transcription, reverse transcription, and Rev-mediated viral mRNA transport), although the precise mechanism of action is unknown. This study shows that Nullbasic can inhibit reverse transcription by binding to the viral enzyme called reverse transcriptase, which results in accelerated uncoating of the viral core and instability of the viral apparatus called the reverse transcription complex (RTC). This unique antiviral activity may inform development of other RTC inhibitors, as well as providing a unique investigative tool for dissecting the RTC cellular composition. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
This article was published in J Virol and referenced in Virology & Mycology

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