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Mutations that abrogate human immunodeficiency virus type 1 reverse transcriptase dimerization affect maturation of the reverse transcriptase heterodimer.

Wapling J, Moore KL, Sonza S, Mak J, Tachedjian G

  • Journal Journal of virology

  • Published 08 Sep 2005

  • Volume 79

  • ISSUE 16

  • Pagination 10247-57

  • DOI 10.1128/JVI.79.16.10247-10257.2005


The specific impact of mutations that abrogate human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase (RT) dimerization on virus replication is not known, as mutations shown previously to inhibit RT dimerization also impact Gag-Pol stability, resulting in pleiotropic effects on HIV-1 replication. We have previously characterized mutations at codon 401 in the HIV-1 RT tryptophan repeat motif that abrogate RT dimerization in vitro, leading to a loss in polymerase activity. The introduction of the RT dimerization-inhibiting mutations W401L and W401A into HIV-1 resulted in the formation of noninfectious viruses with reduced levels of both virion-associated and intracellular RT activity compared to the wild-type virus and the W401F mutant, which does not inhibit RT dimerization in vitro. Steady-state levels of the p66 and p51 RT subunits in viral lysates of the W401L and W401A mutants were reduced, but no significant decrease in Gag-Pol was observed compared to the wild type. In contrast, there was a decrease in processing of p66 to p51 in cell lysates for the dimerization-defective mutants compared to the wild type. The treatment of transfected cells with indinavir suggested that the HIV-1 protease contributed to the degradation of virion-associated RT subunits. These data demonstrate that mutations near the RT dimer interface that abrogate RT dimerization in vitro result in the production of replication-impaired viruses without detectable effects on Gag-Pol stability or virion incorporation. The inhibition of RT activity is most likely due to a defect in RT maturation, suggesting that RT dimerization represents a valid drug target for chemotherapeutic intervention.