HIV-1 Gag selects and packages a dimeric, unspliced viral RNA in the context of a large excess of cytosolic human RNAs. As Gag assembles on the plasma membrane, the HIV-1 genome is enriched relative to cellular RNAs by an unknown mechanism. We used a minimal system consisting of purified RNAs, recombinant HIV-1 Gag and giant unilamellar vesicles to recapitulate the selective packaging of the 5' untranslated region of the HIV-1 genome in the presence of excess competitor RNA. Mutations in the CA-CTD domain of Gag which subtly affect the self-assembly of Gag abrogated RNA selectivity. We further found that tRNA suppresses Gag membrane binding less when Gag has bound viral RNA. The ability of HIV-1 Gag to selectively package its RNA genome and its self-assembly on membranes are thus interdependent on one another.
- Wesley I Sundquist, University of Utah, United States
© 2016, Carlson et al.
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Mimivirus is the prototype of the Mimiviridae family of giant dsDNA viruses. Little is known about the organization of the 1.2 Mb genome inside the membrane-limited nucleoid filling the ~0.5 µm icosahedral capsids. Cryo-electron microscopy, cryo-electron tomography, and proteomics revealed that it is encased into a ~30-nm diameter helical protein shell surprisingly composed of two GMC-type oxidoreductases, which also form the glycosylated fibrils decorating the capsid. The genome is arranged in 5- or 6-start left-handed super-helices, with each DNA-strand lining the central channel. This luminal channel of the nucleoprotein fiber is wide enough to accommodate oxidative stress proteins and RNA polymerase subunits identified by proteomics. Such elegant supramolecular organization would represent a remarkable evolutionary strategy for packaging and protecting the genome, in a state ready for immediate transcription upon unwinding in the host cytoplasm. The parsimonious use of the same protein in two unrelated substructures of the virion is unexpected for a giant virus with thousand genes at its disposal.
Electron bifurcation is a fundamental energy conservation mechanism in nature in which two electrons from an intermediate-potential electron donor are split so that one is sent along a high-potential pathway to a high-potential acceptor and the other is sent along a low-potential pathway to a low-potential acceptor. This process allows endergonic reactions to be driven by exergonic ones and is an alternative, less recognized, mechanism of energy coupling to the well-known chemiosmotic principle. The electron-bifurcating [FeFe] hydrogenase from Thermotoga maritima (HydABC) requires both NADH and ferredoxin to reduce protons generating hydrogen. The mechanism of electron bifurcation in HydABC remains enigmatic in spite of intense research efforts over the last few years. Structural information may provide the basis for a better understanding of spectroscopic and functional information. Here, we present a 2.3 Å electron cryo-microscopy structure of HydABC. The structure shows a heterododecamer composed of two independent ‘halves’ each made of two strongly interacting HydABC heterotrimers connected via a [4Fe–4S] cluster. A central electron transfer pathway connects the active sites for NADH oxidation and for proton reduction. We identified two conformations of a flexible iron–sulfur cluster domain: a ‘closed bridge’ and an ‘open bridge’ conformation, where a Zn2+ site may act as a ‘hinge’ allowing domain movement. Based on these structural revelations, we propose a possible mechanism of electron bifurcation in HydABC where the flavin mononucleotide serves a dual role as both the electron bifurcation center and as the NAD+ reduction/NADH oxidation site.