Inositol Hexakisphosphate (IP6) Accelerates Immature HIV-1 Gag Protein Assembly toward Kinetically Trapped Morphologies

J Am Chem Soc. 2022 Jun 15;144(23):10417-10428. doi: 10.1021/jacs.2c02568. Epub 2022 Jun 6.


During the late stages of the HIV-1 lifecycle, immature virions are produced by the concerted activity of Gag polyproteins, primarily mediated by the capsid (CA) and spacer peptide 1 (SP1) domains, which assemble into a spherical lattice, package viral genomic RNA, and deform the plasma membrane. Recently, inositol hexakisphosphate (IP6) has been identified as an essential assembly cofactor that efficiently produces both immature virions in vivo and immature virus-like particles in vitro. To date, however, several distinct mechanistic roles for IP6 have been proposed on the basis of independent functional, structural, and kinetic studies. In this work, we investigate the molecular influence of IP6 on the structural outcomes and dynamics of CA/SP1 assembly using coarse-grained (CG) molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and free energy calculations. Here, we derive a bottom-up, low-resolution, and implicit-solvent CG model of CA/SP1 and IP6, and simulate their assembly under conditions that emulate both in vitro and in vivo systems. Our analysis identifies IP6 as an assembly accelerant that promotes curvature generation and fissure-like defects throughout the lattice. Our findings suggest that IP6 induces kinetically trapped immature morphologies, which may be physiologically important for later stages of viral morphogenesis and potentially useful for virus-like particle technologies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Capsid Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Products, gag / chemistry
  • Gene Products, gag / genetics
  • Gene Products, gag / metabolism
  • HIV-1* / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Phytic Acid / metabolism
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Virion
  • Virus Assembly / physiology


  • Capsid Proteins
  • Gene Products, gag
  • RNA, Viral
  • Phytic Acid