It is unclear whether proteolytic processing of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Gag protein is dependent on virus assembly at the plasma membrane. Mutations that prevent myristylation of HIV- 1 Gag proteins have been shown to block virus assembly and release from the plasma membrane of COS cells but do not prevent processing of Gag proteins. In contrast, in HeLa cells similar mutations abolished processing of Gag proteins as well as virus production. We have now addressed this issue with CD4+ T cells, which are natural target cells of HIV-1. In these cells, myristylation of Gag proteins was required for proteolytic processing of Gag proteins and production of extracellular viral particles. This result was not due to a lack of expression of the vital protease in the form of a Gag-Pol precursor or a lack of interaction between unmyristylated Gag and Gag-Pol precursors. The processing defect of unmyristylated Gag was partially rescued ex vivo by coexpression with wild-type myristylated Gag proteins in HeLa cells. The cell type-dependent processing of HIV-1 Gag precursors was also observed when another part of the plasma membrane binding signal, a polybasic region in the matrix protein, was mutated. The processing of unmyristylated Gag precursors was inhibited in COS cells by HIV-1 protease inhibitors. Altogether, our findings demonstrate that the processing of HIV-1 Gag precursors in CD4+ T cells occurs normally at the plasma membrane during vital morphogenesis. The intracellular environment of COS cells presumably allows activation of the viral protease and proteolytic processing of HIV-1 Gag proteins in the absence of plasma membrane binding.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science