Nucleocytoplasmic shuttling by human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Vpr

J Virol. 2001 Feb;75(3):1522-32. doi: 10.1128/JVI.75.3.1522-1532.2001.


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is capable of infecting nondividing cells such as macrophages because the viral preintegration complex is able to actively traverse the limiting nuclear pore due to the redundant and possibly overlapping nuclear import signals present in Vpr, matrix, and integrase. We have previously recognized the presence of at least two distinct and novel nuclear import signals residing within Vpr that, unlike matrix and integrase, bypass the classical importin alpha/beta-dependent signals and do not require energy or a RanGTP gradient. We now report that the carboxy-terminal region of Vpr (amino acids 73 to 96) contains a bipartite nuclear localization signal (NLS) composed of multiple arginine residues. Surprisingly, when the leucine-rich Vpr(1-71) fragment, previously shown to harbor an NLS, or full-length Vpr is fused to the C terminus of a green fluorescent protein-pyruvate kinase (GFP-PK) chimera, the resultant protein is almost exclusively detected in the cytoplasm. However, the addition of leptomycin B (LMB), a potent inhibitor of CRM1-dependent nuclear export, produces a shift from a cytoplasmic localization to a nuclear pattern, suggesting that these Vpr fusion proteins shuttle into and out of the nucleus. Studies of nuclear import with GFP-PK-Vpr fusion proteins in the presence of LMB reveals that both of the leucine-rich alpha-helices are required for effective nuclear uptake and thus define a unique NLS. Using a modified heterokaryon analysis, we have localized the Vpr nuclear export signal to the second leucine-rich helix, overlapping a portion of the amino-terminal nuclear import signal. These studies thus define HIV-1 Vpr as a nucleocytoplasmic shuttling protein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / pharmacology
  • Gene Products, vpr / chemistry
  • Gene Products, vpr / physiology*
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Karyopherins*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear*
  • vpr Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Gene Products, vpr
  • Karyopherins
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • exportin 1 protein
  • vpr Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • leptomycin B