Packaging of retroviral RNA is attained through the specific recognition of a cis-acting encapsidation site (located near the 5' end of the viral RNA) by components of the Gag precursor protein. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) are two lentiviruses that lack apparent sequence similarity in their putative encapsidation regions. We used SIV vectors to determine whether HIV-1 particles can recognize the SIV encapsidation site and functionally propagate SIV nucleic acid. SIV nucleic acid was replicated by HIV-1 proteins. Thus, efficient lentivirus pseudotyping can take place at the RNA level. Direct examination of the RNA contents of virus particles indicated that encapsidation of this heterologous RNA is efficient. Characterization of deletion mutants in the untranslated leader region of SIV RNA indicates that only a very short region at the 5' end of the SIV RNA is needed for packaging. Comparison of this region with the corresponding region of HIV-1 reveals that both are marked by secondary structures that are likely to be similar. Thus, it is likely that a similar higher-order RNA structure is required for encapsidation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science