Two RNA stem-loop structures in the gag gene have been implicated as representing the primary encapsidation (packaging) signal for bovine leukemia virus (BLV), a member of the Deltaretrovirus of the Retroviridae. In this study, we conducted an analysis of these RNA structures, stem loop 1 (SL1) and stem loop 2 (SL2), to determine if both the loop and the stem nucleotide bases are important for RNA encapsidation. We have found that the primary sequence of the unpaired bases located in the loop regions of both SL1 and SL2 are important for efficient RNA encapsidation and virus replication. The primary sequence of the bases that form the stems for both SL1 and SL2 was observed to aid in efficient encapsidation and replication. We also observed that the order of SL1 and SL2 is important for RNA encapsidation and virus replication efficiency. A viral RNA with two copies of either SL1 or SL2 was found to replicate and package RNA as efficiently as a viral RNA with only one copy of SL1 or SL2. This provides evidence that SL1 and SL2 are not functionally equivalent. Sequences from human T cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) that are located in the same region of HTLV-1 as the SL1 and SL2 of BLV were used to replace the BLV SL1, SL2, or both in a BLV RNA. These BLV RNAs were still encapsidated and replicated, suggesting that these sequences may function as an encapsidation signal in HTLV-1. The chimeric RNAs did not replicate as well as the parental, indicating that the primary nucleotide sequence along with the secondary and tertiary structure of the RNA plays a role in efficient RNA encapsidation and replication.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the American Cancer Society (RPG 0027801).
- Human T-cell leukemia virus
- Human immunodeficiency virus type 1
- RNA encapsidation