A molecular switch required for retrovirus assembly participates in the hexagonal immature lattice

EMBO J. 2008 May 7;27(9):1411-20. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2008.71. Epub 2008 Apr 10.


In the Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) Gag protein, the 25 amino-acid residues of the p10 domain immediately upstream of the CA domain are essential for immature particle formation. We performed systematic mutagenesis on this region and found excellent correlation between the amino-acid side chains required for in vitro assembly and those that participate in the p10-CA dimer interface in a previously described crystal structure. We introduced exogenous cysteine residues that were predicted to form disulphide bonds across the dimer interface. Upon oxidation of immature particles, a disulphide-linked Gag hexamer was formed, implying that p10 participates in and stabilizes the immature Gag hexamer. This is the first example of a critical interaction between two different Gag domains. Molecular modeling of the RSV immature hexamer indicates that the N-terminal domains of CA must expand relative to the murine leukaemia virus mature hexamer to accommodate the p10 contact; this expansion is strikingly similar to recent cryotomography results for immature human immunodeficiency virus particles.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chickens
  • Dimerization
  • Gene Products, gag / chemistry*
  • Gene Products, gag / genetics
  • Gene Products, gag / metabolism*
  • Immunoblotting
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Rous sarcoma virus / genetics
  • Rous sarcoma virus / metabolism*


  • Gene Products, gag