Genetic evidence for a connection between Rous sarcoma virus Gag nuclear trafficking and genomic RNA packaging

Rachel Garbitt-Hirst, Scott P. Kenney, Leslie J. Parent

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56 Scopus citations


The packaging of retroviral genomic RNA (gRNA) requires cis-acting elements within the RNA and transacting elements within the Gag polyprotein. The packaging signal ψ, at the 5′ end of the viral gRNA, binds to Gag through interactions with basic residues and Cys-His box RNA-binding motifs in the nucleocapsid. Although specific interactions between Gag and gRNA have been demonstrated previously, where and when they occur is not well understood. We discovered that the Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) Gag protein transiently localizes to the nucleus, although the roles of Gag nuclear trafficking in virus replication have not been fully elucidated. A mutant of RSV (Myr1E) with enhanced plasma membrane targeting of Gag fails to undergo nuclear trafficking and also incorporates reduced levels of gRNA into virus particles compared to those in wild-type particles. Based on these results, we hypothesized that Gag nuclear entry might facilitate gRNA packaging. To test this idea by using a gain-of-function genetic approach, a bipartite nuclear localization signal (NLS) derived from the nucleoplasmin protein was inserted into the Myr1E Gag sequence (generating mutant Myr1E.NLS) in an attempt to restore nuclear trafficking. Here, we report that the inserted NLS enhanced the nuclear localization of Myr1E.NLS Gag compared to that of Myr1E Gag. Also, the NLS sequence restored gRNA packaging to nearly wild-type levels in viruses containing Myr1E.NLS Gag, providing genetic evidence linking nuclear trafficking of the retroviral Gag protein with gRNA incorporation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6790-6797
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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