HIV-1 pre-integration complexes selectively target decondensed chromatin in the nuclear periphery

PLoS One. 2008 Jun 11;3(6):e2413. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002413.


Integration of the double-stranded DNA copy of the HIV-1 genome into host chromosomal DNA is a requirement for efficient viral replication. Integration preferentially occurs within active transcription units, however chromosomal site specificity does not correlate with any strong primary sequence. To investigate whether the nuclear architecture may affect viral integration we have developed an experimental system where HIV-1 viral particles can be visualized within the nuclear compartment. Fluorescently labeled HIV-1 virions were engineered by fusing integrase, the viral protein that catalyzes the integration reaction, to fluorescent proteins. Viral tests demonstrate that the infectivity of fluorescent virions, including the integration step, is not altered as compared to wild-type virus. 3-D confocal microscopy allowed a detailed analysis of the spatial and temporal distribution of the pre-integration complexes (PICs) within the nucleus at different moments following infection; the fluorescently labeled PICs preferentially distribute in decondensed areas of the chromatin with a striking positioning in the nuclear periphery, while heterochromatin regions are largely disfavored. These observations provide a first indication of how the nuclear architecture may initially orient the selection of retroviral integration sites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • HIV Integrase / genetics
  • HIV Integrase / metabolism
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Plasmids
  • Virus Integration*


  • Chromatin
  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • HIV Integrase