Mapping the encapsidation determinants of feline immunodeficiency virus

Iris Kemler, Roman Barraza, Eric M. Poeschla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Encapsidation of retroviral RNA involves specific interactions between viral proteins and cis-acting genomic RNA sequences. Human immunodeficieney virus type 1 (HIV-1) RNA encapsidation determinants appear to be more complex and dispersed than those of murine retroviruses. Feline lentiviral (feline immunodeficiency virus [FIV]) encapsidation has not been studied. To gain comparative insight into lentiviral encapsidation and to optimize FIV-based vectors, we used RNase protection assays of cellular and virion RNAs to determine packaging efficiencies of FIV deletion mutants, and we studied replicative phenotypes of mutant viruses. Unlike the case for other mammalian retroviruses, the sequences between the major splice donor (MSD) and the start codon of gag contribute negligibly to FIV encapsidation. Moreover, molecular clones having deletions in this region were replication competent. In contrast, sequences upstream of the MSD were important for encapsidation, and deletion of the U5 element markedly reduced genomic RNA packaging. The contribution of gag sequences to packaging was systematically investigated with subgenomic FIV vectors containing variable portions of the gag open reading frame, with all virion proteins supplied in trans. When no gag sequence was present, packaging was abolished and marker gene transduction was absent. Inclusion of the first 144 nucleotides (nt) of gag increased vector encapsidation to detectable levels, while inclusion of the first 311 nt increased it to nearly wild-type levels and resulted in high-titer FIV vectors. However, the identified proximal gag sequence is necessary but not sufficient, since viral mRNAs that contain all coding regions, with or without as much as 119 nt of adjacent upstream 5′ leader, were excluded from encapsidation. The results identify a mechanism whereby FIV can encapsidate its genomic mRNA in preference to subgenomic mRNAs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11889-11903
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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