Accumulating evidence suggests that the matrix (MA) protein of retroviruses plays a key role in virus assembly by directing the intracellular transport and membrane association of the Gag polyprotein. In this report, we show that the MA protein of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 is also critical for the incorporation of viral Env proteins into mature virions. Several deletions introduced in the MA domain (p17) of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Gag polyprotein did not greatly affect the synthesis and processing of the Gag polyprotein or the formation of virions. Analysis of the viral proteins revealed normal levels of Gag and Pol proteins in these mutant virions, but the Env proteins, gp120 and gp41, were hardly detectable in the mutant virions. Our data suggest that an interaction between the viral Env protein and the MA domain of the Gag polyprotein is required for the selective incorporation of Env proteins during virus assembly. Such an interaction appears to be very sensitive to conformational changes in the MA domain, as five small deletions in two separate regions of p17 equally inhibited viral Env protein incorporation. Mutant viruses were not infectious in T cells. When mutant and wild-type DNAs were cotransfected into T cells, the replication of wild-type virus was also hindered. These results suggest that the incorporation of viral Env protein is a critical step for replication of retroviruses and can be a target for the design of antiviral strategies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science