Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 nucleocapsid protein can prevent self-priming of minus-strand strong stop DNA by promoting the annealing of short oligonucleotides to hairpin sequences.

Abstract:

Understanding how viral components collaborate to convert the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 genome from single-stranded RNA into double-stranded DNA is critical to the understanding of viral replication. Not only must the correct reactions be carried out, but unwanted side reactions must be avoided. After minus-strand strong stop DNA (-sssDNA) synthesis, degradation of the RNA template by the RNase H domain of reverse transcriptase (RT) produces single-stranded DNA that has the potential to self-prime at the imperfectly base-paired TAR hairpin, making continued DNA synthesis impossible. Although nucleocapsid protein (NC) interferes with -sssDNA self-priming in reverse transcription reactions in vitro, NC alone did not prevent self-priming of a synthetic -sssDNA oligomer. NC did not influence DNA bending and therefore cannot inhibit self-priming at hairpins by directly blocking hairpin formation. Using DNA oligomers as a model for genomic RNA fragments, we found that a 17-base DNA fragment annealed to the 3' end of the -sssDNA prevented self-priming in the presence of NC. This implies that to avoid self-priming, an RNA-DNA hybrid that is more thermodynamically stable than the hairpin must remain within the hairpin region. This suggests that NC prevents self-priming by generating or stabilizing a thermodynamically favored RNA-DNA heteroduplex instead of the kinetically favored TAR hairpin. In support of this idea, sequence changes that increased base pairing in the DNA TAR hairpin resulted in an increase in self-priming in vitro. We present a model describing the role of NC-dependent inhibition of self-priming in first-strand transfer.

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