The CA (capsid) domain of immature HIV-1 Gag and the adjacent spacer peptide 1 (SP1) play a key role in viral assembly by forming a lattice of CA hexamers, which adapts to viral envelope curvature by incorporating small lattice defects and a large gap at the site of budding. This lattice is stabilized by intrahexameric and interhexameric CA-CA interactions, which are important in regulating viral assembly and maturation. We applied subtomogram averaging and classification to determine the oligomerization state of CA at lattice edges and found that CA forms partial hexamers. These structures reveal the network of interactions formed by CA-SP1 at the lattice edge. We also performed atomistic molecular dynamics simulations of CA-CA interactions stabilizing the immature lattice and partial CA-SP1 helical bundles. Free energy calculations reveal increased propensity for helix-to-coil transitions in partial hexamers compared to complete six-helix bundles. Taken together, these results suggest that the CA dimer is the basic unit of lattice assembly, partial hexamers exist at lattice edges, these are in a helix-coil dynamic equilibrium, and partial helical bundles are more likely to unfold, representing potential sites for HIV-1 maturation initiation.
Keywords: HIV-1; cryo-electron tomography; maturation; molecular dynamics simulations; virus assembly.
Copyright © 2021 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.