Our previous biochemical studies of HIV-1 and MuLV virions isolated and identified mature Gag products, HIV-1 p6(Gag) and MuLV p12(Gag), that were conjugated to a single ubiquitin. To study the importance of the monoubiquitination of Gag, a series of lysine to arginine mutants were constructed that eliminated ubiquitination at one or both of the lysines in HIV-1(NL4-3) p6(Gag) and both lysines in Moloney MuLV p12(Gag). HPLC and immunoblot analysis of the HIV-1 mutants demonstrated that either of the lysines in p6(Gag), K27 or K33, could be monoubiquitinated. However, infectivity assays showed that monoubiquitination of HIV-1 p6(Gag) or MuLV p12(Gag) is not required for viral replication in vitro. Pulse-chase radiolabeling of HIV-1-producing cells revealed that monoubiquitination of p6(Gag) does not affect the short-term release of virus from the cell, the maturation of Pr55(Gag), or the sensitivity of these processes to proteasome inhibitors. Experiments with protease-deficient HIV-1 showed that Pr55(Gag) can be monoubiquitinated, suggesting that p6(Gag) is first modified as a domain within Gag. Examination of the proteins inside an HIV-1 mutant found that free ubiquitin was incorporated into the virions in the absence of the lysines in p6(Gag), showing that the ubiquitin inside the virus is not initially brought in as a p6(Gag) conjugate. Although our results establish that monoubiquitination of p6(Gag) and p12(Gag) is not required for viral replication in vitro, this modification may be a by-product of interactions between Gag and cellular proteins during assembly and budding.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.