PloS one

HIV-1 suppressive sequences are modulated by Rev transport of unspliced RNA and are required for efficient HIV-1 production.

PMID 23251516


The unspliced human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) RNAs are translated as Gag and Gag-Pol polyproteins or packaged as genomes into viral particles. Efficient translation is necessary before the transition to produce infective virions. The viral protein Rev exports all intron-containing viral RNAs; however, it also appears to enhance translation. Cellular microRNAs target cellular and viral mRNAs to silence their translation and enrich them at discrete cytoplasmic loci that overlap with the putative interim site of Gag and the genome. Here, we analyzed how Rev-mediated transport and the splicing status of the mRNA influenced the silencing status imposed by microRNA. Through identification and mutational analysis of the silencing sites in the HIV-1 genome, we elucidated the effect of silencing on virus production. Renilla luciferase mRNA, which contains a let-7 targeting site in its 3' untranslated region, was mediated when it was transported by Rev and not spliced, but it was either not mediated when it was spliced even in a partial way or it was Rev-independent. The silencing sites in the pol and env-nef regions of the HIV-1 genome, which were repressed in T cells and other cell lines, were Drosha-dependent and could also be modulated by Rev in an unspliced state. Mutant viruses that contained genomic mutations that reflect alterations to show more derepressive effects in the 3' untranslated region of the Renilla luciferase gene replicated more slowly than wild-type virus. These findings yield insights into the HIV-1 silencing sites that might allow the genome to avoid translational machinery and that might be utilized in coordinating virus production during initial virus replication. However, the function of Rev to modulate the silencing sites of unspliced RNAs would be advantageous for the efficient translation that is required to support protein production prior to viral packaging and particle production.