The 5´-leader of the HIV-1 genome regulates multiple functions during viral replication by mechanisms that have yet to be established. We developed an NMR approach that enabled direct detection of structural elements within the intact leader (712 nucleotide dimer) that are critical for genome packaging. Residues spanning the gag start codon (AUG) form a hairpin in the monomeric leader and base pair with residues of the Unique-5´ region (U5) in the dimer. U5:AUG formation promotes dimerization by displacing and exposing a dimer-promoting hairpin, and enhances binding by the nucleocapsid protein (NC), the cognate domain of the viral Gag polyprotein that directs packaging. Our findings support a packaging mechanism in which translation, dimerization, NC binding, and packaging are regulated by a common RNA structural switch.
The promoter in HIV type 1 (HIV-1) proviral DNA contains three sequential guanosines at the U3-R boundary that have been proposed to function as sites for transcription initiation. Here we show that all three sites are used in cells infected with HIV-1 and that viral RNAs containing a single 5′ capped guanosine ( Cap 1G) are specifically selected for packaging in virions, consistent with a recent report [Masuda et al. (2015) Sci Rep 5:17680]. In addition, we now show that transcripts that begin with two or three capped guanosines ( Cap 2G or Cap 3G) are enriched on polysomes, indicating that RNAs synthesized from different transcription start sites have different functions in viral replication. Because genomes are selected for packaging as dimers, we examined the in vitro monomer-dimer equilibrium properties of Cap 1G, Cap 2G, and Cap 3G 5′-leader RNAs in the NL4-3 strain of HIV-1. Strikingly, under physiological-like ionic conditions in which the Cap 1G 5′-leader RNA adopts a dimeric structure, the Cap 2G and Cap 3G 5′-leader RNAs exist predominantly as monomers. Mutagenesis studies designed to probe for base-pairing interactions suggest that the additional guanosines of the 2G and 3G RNAs remodel the base of the PolyA hairpin, resulting in enhanced sequestration of dimerpromoting residues and stabilization of the monomer. Our studies suggest a mechanism through which the structure, function, and fate of the viral genome can be modulated by the transcriptionally controlled presence or absence of a single 5′ guanosine.HIV-1 | 5′-leader | transcription | RNA | structure
A rare example of ion/ion reaction between species of like polarity was shown to take place during the transfer of metal cations from nucleic acid substrates to chelating agents in the gas phase. Gaseous anionic reactants were generated from separate solutions of analyte and chelator by using a dual nanospray setup. The respective multiply-charged ions shared the same path and were allowed to react for a predetermined interval in an rf-only hexapole before high-resolution analysis by Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FTICR) mass spectrometry. Efficient transfer of sodium and magnesium ions was readily observed with significant reduction of the non-specific adducts that are typically associated with decreased sensitivity and resolution in the analysis of nucleic acid samples. Metal cations were abstracted from the initial analyte without being replaced by protons, in a process that was clearly dependent on the concentration of chelator in the auxiliary emitter and on the time spent by the reactants in the hexapole element. A survey of the properties of selected anionic chelators showed that their known affinity for a target cation in solution was more critical than their maximum anionic charge in determining the outcome of the transfer process. The analysis of selected assemblies requiring divalent cations to preserve their structural integrity and functional properties demonstrated that ion/ion reactions were clearly capable of discriminating between non-specific interactions and specific coordination based on transfer susceptibility. These examples demonstrated that the ability to selectively eliminate non-specific adducts in the gas phase, after the desolvation process is complete, offers a unique opportunity for studying specific metal binding in biological systems without resorting to separation procedures that may adversely affect the position of binding equilibria in solution and disrupt the assemblies under investigation.
BackgroundRetroviruses selectively package two copies of their unspliced genomes by what appears to be a dimerization-dependent RNA packaging mechanism. Dimerization of human immunodeficiency virus Type-1 (HIV-1) genomes is initiated by “kissing” interactions between GC-rich palindromic loop residues of a conserved hairpin (DIS), and is indirectly promoted by long-range base pairing between residues overlapping the gag start codon (AUG) and an upstream Unique 5′ element (U5). The DIS and U5:AUG structures are phylogenetically conserved among divergent retroviruses, suggesting conserved functions. However, some studies suggest that the DIS of HIV-2 does not participate in dimerization, and that U5:AUG pairing inhibits, rather than promotes, genome dimerization. We prepared RNAs corresponding to native and mutant forms of the 5′ leaders of HIV-1 (NL4-3 strain), HIV-2 (ROD strain), and two divergent strains of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV; cpz-TAN1 and -US strains), and probed for potential roles of the DIS and U5:AUG base pairing on intrinsic and NC-dependent dimerization by mutagenesis, gel electrophoresis, and NMR spectroscopy.ResultsDimeric forms of the native HIV-2 and SIV leaders were only detectable using running buffers that contained Mg2+, indicating that these dimers are more labile than that of the HIV-1 leader. Mutations designed to promote U5:AUG base pairing promoted dimerization of the HIV-2 and SIV RNAs, whereas mutations that prevented U5:AUG pairing inhibited dimerization. Chimeric HIV-2 and SIV leader RNAs containing the dimer-promoting loop of HIV-1 (DIS) exhibited HIV-1 leader-like dimerization properties, whereas an HIV-1NL4-3 mutant containing the SIVcpzTAN1 DIS loop behaved like the SIVcpzTAN1 leader. The cognate NC proteins exhibited varying abilities to promote dimerization of the retroviral leader RNAs, but none were able to convert labile dimers to non-labile dimers.ConclusionsThe finding that U5:AUG formation promotes dimerization of the full-length HIV-1, HIV-2, SIVcpzUS, and SIVcpzTAN1 5′ leaders suggests that these retroviruses utilize a common RNA structural switch mechanism to modulate function. Differences in native and NC-dependent dimerization propensity and lability are due to variations in the compositions of the DIS loop residues rather than other sequences within the leader RNAs. Although NC is a well-known RNA chaperone, its role in dimerization has the hallmarks of a classical riboswitch.
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