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Hepadnavirus assembly and reverse transcription require a multi-component chaperone complex which is incorporated into nucleocapsids.

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  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Assembly of hepadnaviruses depends on the formation of a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex comprising the viral polymerase polypeptide and an RNA segment, epsilon, present on pregenomic RNA. This interaction, in turn, activates the reverse transcription reaction, which is primed by a tyrosine residue on the polymerase. We have shown recently that the formation of this RNP complex in an avian hepadnavirus, the duck hepatitis B virus, depends on cellular factors that include the heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90). We now report that RNP formation also requires ATP hydrolysis and the function of p23, a recently identified chaperone partner for Hsp90. Furthermore, we also provide evidence that the chaperone complex is incorporated into the viral nucleocapsids in a polymerase-dependent reaction. Based on these findings, we propose a model for hepadnavirus assembly and priming of viral DNA synthesis where a dynamic, energy-driven process, mediated by a multi-component chaperone complex consisting of Hsp90, p23 and, potentially, additional factors, maintains the reverse transcriptase in a specific conformation that is competent for RNA packaging and protein priming of viral DNA synthesis.

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