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Role of the C Terminus of Foamy Virus Gag in RNA Packaging and Pol Expression

  • Carolyn R. Stenbak
  • Maxine L. Linial
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2004
  • Biology


Foamy viruses (FV) are complex retroviruses that possess several unique features that distinguish them from all other retroviruses. FV Gag and Pol proteins are expressed independently of one another, and both proteins undergo single cleavage events. Thus, the mature FV Gag protein does not consist of the matrix, capsid, and nucleocapsid (NC) proteins found in orthoretroviruses, and the putative NC domain of FV Gag lacks the hallmark Cys-His motifs or I domains. As there is no Gag-Pol fusion protein, the mechanism of Pol packaging is different but unknown. FV RNA packaging is not well understood either. The C terminus of FV Gag has three glycine-arginine motifs (GR boxes), the first of which has been shown to have nucleic acid binding properties in vitro. The role of these GR boxes in RNA packaging and Pol packaging was investigated with a series of Gag C-terminal truncation mutants. GR box 1 was found to be the major determinant of RNA packaging, but all three GR boxes were required to achieve wild-type levels of RNA packaging. In addition, Pol was packaged in the absence of GR box 3, but GR boxes 1 and 2 were required for efficient Pol packaging. Interestingly, the Gag truncation mutants demonstrated decreased Pol expression levels as well as defects in Pol cleavage. Thus, the C terminus of FV Gag was found to be responsible for RNA packaging, as well as being involved in the expression, cleavage, and incorporation of the Pol protein.

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