Repositioning basic residues in the M domain of the Rous sarcoma virus Gag protein

E. M. Callahan, J. W. Wills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The first 86 residues of the Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) Gag protein form a membrane-binding (M) domain that directs Gag to the plasma membrane during budding. Unlike other retroviral Gag proteins, RSV Gag is not myristylated; however, the RSV M domain does contain 11 basic residues that could potentially interact with acidic phospholipids in the plasma membrane. To investigate this possibility, we analyzed mutants in which basic residues in the M domain were replaced with asparagines or glutamines. The data show that neutralizing as few as two basic residues in the M domain blocked particle release and prevented Gag from localizing to the plasma membrane. Though not as severe, single neutralizations also diminished budding and, when expressed in the context of proviral clones, reduced the ability of RSV to spread in cell cultures. To further explore the role of basic residues in particle production, we added lysines to new positions in the M domain. Using this approach, we found that the budding efficiency of RSV Gag can be improved by adding pairs of lysines and that the basic residues in the M domain can be repositioned without affecting particle release. These data provide the first gain-of-function evidence for the importance of basic residues in a retroviral M domain and support a model in which RSV Gag binds to the plasma membrane via electrostatic interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11222-11229
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number23
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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