Identification of a cellular factor that modulates HIV-1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting

J Biol Chem. 2010 Jun 25;285(26):19776-84. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.085621. Epub 2010 Apr 23.


Programmed -1 ribosomal frameshifting (PRF) is a distinctive mode of gene expression utilized by some viruses, including human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), to produce multiple proteins from a single mRNA. -1 PRF induces a subset of elongating ribosomes to shift their translational reading frame by 1 base in the 5' direction. The appropriate ratio of Gag to Gag-Pol synthesis is tightly regulated by the PRF signal which promotes ribosomes to shift frame, and even small changes in PRF efficiency, either up or down, have significant inhibitory effects upon virus production, making PRF essential for HIV-1 replication. Although little has been reported about the cellular factors that modulate HIV-1 PRF, the cis-acting elements regulating PRF have been extensively investigated, and the PRF signal of HIV-1 was shown to include a slippery site and frameshift stimulatory signal. Recently, a genome-wide screen performed to identify cellular factors that affect HIV-1 replication demonstrated that down-regulation of eukaryotic release factor 1 (eRF1) inhibited HIV-1 replication. Because of the eRF1 role in translation, we hypothesized that eRF1 is important for HIV-1 PRF. Using a dual luciferase reporter system harboring a HIV-1 PRF signal, results showed that depletion or inhibition of eRF1 enhanced PRF in yeast, rabbit reticulocyte lysates, and mammalian cells. Consistent with the eRF1 role in modulating HIV PRF, depleting eRF1 increased the Gag-Pol to Gag ratio in cells infected with replication-competent virus. The increase in PRF was independent of a proximal termination codon and did not result from increased ribosomal pausing at the slippery site. This is the first time that a cellular factor has been identified which can promote HIV-1 PRF and highlights HIV-1 PRF as essential for replication and an important but under exploited antiviral drug target.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Frameshifting, Ribosomal / genetics*
  • HIV-1 / genetics*
  • HIV-1 / growth & development
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Peptide Termination Factors / genetics
  • Peptide Termination Factors / metabolism
  • Peptide Termination Factors / physiology*
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA Interference
  • Rabbits
  • Reticulocytes / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Virus Replication / genetics*
  • gag Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / genetics
  • pol Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / genetics


  • Peptide Termination Factors
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • eukaryotic release factor 1, S cerevisiae
  • gag Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • pol Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus