Journal of virology

Identification of capsid mutations that alter the rate of HIV-1 uncoating in infected cells.

PMID 25339776


After viral fusion with the cell membrane, the conical capsid of HIV-1 disassembles by a process called uncoating. We recently utilized the cyclosporine (CsA) washout assay, in which TRIM-CypA-mediated restriction of viral replication is used to detect the state of the viral capsid, to study the kinetics of uncoating in HIV-1-infected cells. Here we have extended this analysis to examine the effects of p24 capsid protein (p24(CA)) mutations and cellular environment on the kinetics of uncoating in infected cells. We found that p24(CA) mutations can significantly increase (A92E), delay (E45A and N74D), or have no effect (G94D) on the rate of uncoating and that these alterations are not due to changes in reverse transcription. Inhibition of reverse transcription delayed uncoating kinetics to an extent similar to that of the wild-type virus with all the p24(CA) mutant viruses tested. In addition, we observed differences in uncoating in two cell lines, which suggests that the cellular environment can differentially impact the disassembly of wild-type and mutant capsids. Collectively, these experiments suggest that viral and cellular factors are important for the process of uncoating. Finally, these data support the model whereby early steps in reverse transcription facilitate HIV-1 uncoating. The HIV-1 capsid is a cone-shaped structure, composed of the HIV-1-encoded protein p24(CA), which contains the viral RNA and other proteins needed for infection. After the virus enters a target cell, this capsid must disassemble by a process called uncoating. Uncoating is required for HIV-1 infection to progress, but the details of how this process occurs is not known. In this study, we used an in vivo assay to examine the uncoating process in HIV-1-infected cells. We determined that p24(CA) mutations could increase or decrease the rate of uncoating and that this rate varied in different cell lines. We also found that reverse transcription of the viral RNA altered the process of uncoating before the p24(CA) mutations. Collectively, these experiments provide a better understanding of how viral and cellular factors are involved with a poorly understood step in HIV-1 infection.