The role of the integrase region of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in viral replication was examined using an integrase mutant clone of FIV which carries a frameshift mutation in the region. Upon transfection, although the integrase mutant was able to release virus-like particles into the supernatant from the transfected cells, the virions produced by the mutant contained unprocessed gag precursor protein and undetectable levels of reverse transcriptase activity. Furthermore, the mutant virions were unable to direct the synthesis of vital DNA after infection in target cells. To understand this phenotype of the integrase mutant in more detail, we constructed a gag-pol expression plasmid from an FIV molecular clone and assayed roles of the integrase region on virus particle formation following transfection. When an inframe deletion was introduced into the protease region of the expression plasmid, the mutant was able to efficiently release gag- and gag-pol precursor proteins into the supernatant from the transfected cells. An expression plasmid with mutations in both the protease and integrase regions, however, failed to release the gag-pol precursor protein from the cells. These results suggested an essential role for the integrase region for efficient incorporation of the gag-pol precursor into the virions.
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