Role of Pr160gag-pol in mediating the selective incorporation of tRNA(Lys) into human immunodeficiency virus type 1 particles

J Virol. 1994 Apr;68(4):2065-72. doi: 10.1128/JVI.68.4.2065-2072.1994.


COS-7 cells transfected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) proviral DNA produce virus in which three tRNA species are most abundant in the viral tRNA population. These tRNAs have been identified through RNA sequencing techniques as tRNA(3Lys) the primer tRNA in HIV-1, and members of the tRNA(1,2Lys) isoacceptor family. These RNAs represent 60% of the low-molecular-weight RNA isolated from virus particles, while they represent only 6% of the low-molecular-weight RNA isolated from the COS cell cytoplasm. Thus, tRNA(Lys) is selectively incorporated into HIV-1 particles. We have measured the ratio of tRNA(3Lys) molecules to copies of genomic RNA in viral RNA samples and have calculated that HIV-1 contains approximately eight molecules of tRNA(3Lys) per two copies of genomic RNA. We have also obtained evidence that the Pr160gag-pol precursor is involved in primer tRNA(3Lys) incorporation into virus. First, selective tRNA(Lys) incorporation and wild-type amounts of tRNA(3Lys) were maintained in a protease-negative virus unable to process Pr55gag and Pr160gag-pol precursors, indicating that precursor processing was not required for primer tRNA incorporation. Second, viral particles containing only unprocessed Pr55gag protein did not selectively incorporate tRNA(Lys), while virions containing both unprocessed Pr55gag and Pr160gag-pol proteins demonstrated select tRNA(3Lys) packaging. Third, studies with a proviral mutant containing a deletion of most of the reverse transcriptase sequences and approximately one-third of the integrase sequence in the Pr160gag-pol precursor resulted in the loss of selective tRNA incorporation and an eightfold decrease in the amount of tRNA(3Lys) per two copies of genomic RNA. We have also confirmed herein finding of a previous study which indicated that the primer binding site is not required for the selective incorporation of tRNA(Lys).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Fusion Proteins, gag-pol / genetics
  • Fusion Proteins, gag-pol / metabolism*
  • Gene Products, gag / metabolism
  • HIV Protease / genetics
  • HIV Protease / metabolism
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / growth & development*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Proviruses / genetics
  • Proviruses / growth & development*
  • RNA
  • RNA, Transfer, Lys / metabolism*
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Virion / genetics
  • Virion / growth & development*


  • Fusion Proteins, gag-pol
  • Gene Products, gag
  • Protein Precursors
  • RNA primers
  • RNA, Transfer, Lys
  • RNA, Viral
  • p55 gag precursor protein, Human immunodeficiency virus 1
  • RNA
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • HIV Protease