Selection and identification of an RNA aptamer that specifically binds the HIV-1 capsid lattice and inhibits viral replication

Nucleic Acids Res. 2022 Feb 22;50(3):1701-1717. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkab1293.


The HIV-1 capsid core participates in several replication processes. The mature capsid core is a lattice composed of capsid (CA) monomers thought to assemble first into CA dimers, then into ∼250 CA hexamers and 12 CA pentamers. CA assembly requires conformational flexibility of each unit, resulting in the presence of unique, solvent-accessible surfaces. Significant advances have improved our understanding of the roles of the capsid core in replication; however, the contributions of individual CA assembly forms remain unclear and there are limited tools available to evaluate these forms in vivo. Here, we have selected aptamers that bind CA lattice tubes. We describe aptamer CA15-2, which selectively binds CA lattice, but not CA monomer or CA hexamer, suggesting that it targets an interface present and accessible only on CA lattice. CA15-2 does not compete with PF74 for binding, indicating that it likely binds a non-overlapping site. Furthermore, CA15-2 inhibits HIV-1 replication when expressed in virus producer cells, but not target cells, suggesting that it binds a biologically-relevant site during virus production that is either not accessible during post-entry replication steps or is accessible but unaltered by aptamer binding. Importantly, CA15-2 represents the first aptamer that specifically recognizes the HIV-1 CA lattice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aptamers, Nucleotide* / metabolism
  • Capsid / metabolism
  • Capsid Proteins / genetics
  • Capsid Proteins / metabolism
  • HIV-1* / metabolism
  • Virus Replication / genetics


  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Capsid Proteins