Author(s): Huang L, Chen C
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Abstract BACKGROUND: HIV protease (PR) is a virus-encoded aspartic protease that is essential for viral replication and infectivity. The fully active and mature dimeric protease is released from the Gag-Pol polyprotein as a result of precursor autoprocessing. RESULTS: We here describe a simple model system to directly examine HIV protease autoprocessing in transfected mammalian cells. A fusion precursor was engineered encoding GST fused to a well-characterized miniprecursor, consisting of the mature protease along with its upstream transframe region (TFR), and small peptide epitopes to facilitate detection of the precursor substrate and autoprocessing products. In HEK 293T cells, the resulting chimeric precursor undergoes effective autoprocessing, producing mature protease that is rapidly degraded likely via autoproteolysis. The known protease inhibitors Darunavir and Indinavir suppressed both precursor autoprocessing and autoproteolysis in a dose-dependent manner. Protease mutations that inhibit Gag processing as characterized using proviruses also reduced autoprocessing efficiency when they were introduced to the fusion precursor. Interestingly, autoprocessing of the fusion precursor requires neither the full proteolytic activity nor the majority of the N-terminal TFR region. CONCLUSIONS: We suggest that the fusion precursors provide a useful system to study protease autoprocessing in mammalian cells, and may be further developed for screening of new drugs targeting HIV protease autoprocessing.
This article was published in AIDS Res Ther
and referenced in Internal Medicine: Open Access