Molecular Determinants Directing HIV-1 Gag Assembly to Virus-Containing Compartments in Primary Macrophages

J Virol. 2016 Sep 12;90(19):8509-19. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01004-16. Print 2016 Oct 1.


The subcellular sites of HIV-1 assembly, determined by the localization of the structural protein Gag, vary in a cell-type-dependent manner. In T cells and transformed cell lines used as model systems, HIV-1 assembles at the plasma membrane (PM). The binding and localization of HIV-1 Gag to the PM are mediated by the interaction between the matrix (MA) domain, specifically the highly basic region, and a PM-specific acidic phospholipid, phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate [PI(4,5)P2]. In primary macrophages, prominent accumulation of assembling or assembled particles is found in the virus-containing compartments (VCCs), which largely consist of convoluted invaginations of the PM. To elucidate the molecular mechanism of HIV-1 Gag targeting to the VCCs, we examined the impact of overexpression of polyphosphoinositide 5-phosphatase IV (5ptaseIV), which depletes cellular PI(4,5)P2, in primary macrophages. We found that the VCC localization and virus release of HIV-1 are severely impaired upon 5ptaseIV overexpression, suggesting an important role for the MA-PI(4,5)P2 interaction in HIV-1 assembly in primary macrophages. However, our analysis of HIV-1 Gag derivatives with MA changes showed that this interaction contributes to Gag membrane binding but is dispensable for specific targeting of Gag to the VCCs per se We further determined that deletion of the NC domain abolishes VCC-specific localization of HIV-1 Gag. Notably, HIV-1 Gag localized efficiently to the VCCs when the NC domain was replaced with a leucine zipper dimerization motif that promotes Gag multimerization. Altogether, our data revealed that targeting of HIV-1 Gag to the VCCs requires NC-dependent multimerization.

Importance: In T cells and model cell lines, HIV-1 Gag localizes to the PM in a manner dependent on the MA-PI(4,5)P2 interaction. On the other hand, in primary macrophages, HIV-1 Gag localizes to convoluted intracellular membrane structures termed virus-containing compartments (VCCs). Although these compartments have been known for decades, and despite the implication of viruses in VCCs being involved in virus reservoir maintenance and spread, the viral determinant(s) that promotes Gag targeting to VCCs is unknown. In this study, we found that the MA-PI(4,5)P2 interaction facilitates efficient Gag membrane binding in macrophages but is not essential for Gag targeting to VCCs. Rather, our results revealed that NC-dependent multimerization promotes VCC targeting. Our findings highlight the differential roles played by MA and NC in HIV-1 Gag membrane binding and targeting and suggest a multimerization-dependent mechanism for Gag trafficking in primary macrophages similar to that for Gag localization to uropods in polarized T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / virology*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-Diphosphate / metabolism*
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Protein Multimerization*
  • Protein Transport
  • Virus Assembly*
  • gag Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / metabolism*


  • Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-Diphosphate
  • gag Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • polyphosphoinositide phosphatase
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases