Intrinsic conformational dynamics of the HIV-1 genomic RNA 5'UTR

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 May 21;116(21):10372-10381. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1902271116. Epub 2019 May 8.


The highly conserved 5' untranslated region (5'UTR) of the HIV-1 RNA genome is central to the regulation of virus replication. NMR and biochemical experiments support a model in which the 5'UTR can transition between at least two conformational states. In one state the genome remains a monomer, as the palindromic dimerization initiation site (DIS) is sequestered via base pairing to upstream sequences. In the second state, the DIS is exposed, and the genome is competent for kissing loop dimerization and packaging into assembling virions where an extended dimer is formed. According to this model the conformation of the 5'UTR determines the fate of the genome. In this work, the dynamics of this proposed conformational switch and the factors that regulate it were probed using multiple single-molecule and in-gel ensemble FRET assays. Our results show that the HIV-1 5'UTR intrinsically samples conformations that are stabilized by both viral and host factor binding. Annealing of tRNALys3, the primer for initiation of reverse transcription, can promote the kissing dimer but not the extended dimer. In contrast, HIV-1 nucleocapsid (NC) promotes formation of the extended dimer in both the absence and presence of tRNALys3 Our data are consistent with an ordered series of events that involves primer annealing, genome dimerization, and virion assembly.

Keywords: 5′ untranslated region; HIV-1; RNA conformational dynamics; in-gel FRET; single-molecule FRET.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 5' Untranslated Regions / genetics*
  • Base Pairing / genetics
  • Dimerization
  • Genome, Viral / genetics*
  • Genomics / methods
  • HIV-1 / genetics*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleocapsid / genetics
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • Virion / genetics
  • Virus Assembly / genetics
  • Virus Replication / genetics


  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • RNA, Viral
  • RNA, Transfer