Genetic determinants of Rous sarcoma virus particle size

Neel K. Krishna, Stephen Campbell, Volker M. Vogt, John W. Wills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The Gag proteins of retroviruses are the only viral products required for the release of membrane-enclosed particles by budding from the host cell. Particles released when these proteins are expressed alone are identical to authentic virions in their rates of budding, proteolytic processing, and core morphology, as well as density and size. We have previously mapped three very small, modular regions of the Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) Gag protein that are necessary for budding. These assembly domains constitute only 20% of RSV Gag, and alterations within them block or severely impair particle formation. Regions outside of these domains can be deleted without any effect on the density of the particles that are released. However, since density and size are independent parameters for retroviral particles, we employed rate-zonal gradients and electron microscopy in an exhaustive study of mutants lacking the various dispensable segments of Gag to determine which regions would be required to constrain or define the particle dimensions. The only sequence found to be absolutely critical for determining particle size was that of the initial capsid cleavage product, CA-SP, which contains all of the CA sequence plus the spacer peptides located between CA and NC. Some regions of CA-SP appear to be more important than others. In particular, the major homology region does not contribute to defining particle size. Further evidence for interactions among CA-SP domains was obtained from genetic complementation experiments using mutant ΔNC, which lacks the RNA interaction domains in the NC sequence but retains a complete CA-SP sequence. This mutant produces low- density particles heterogeneous in size. It was rescued into particles of normal size and density, but only when the complementing Gag molecules contained the complete CA-SP sequence. We conclude that CA-SP functions during budding in a manner that is independent of the other assembly domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-577
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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