Retroviral RNA encapsidation is mediated by specific interactions between viral Gag proteins and cis-acting packaging sequences in genomic RNA. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) RNA encapsidation determinants have been shown to be discrete and noncontinuous, comprising one region at the 5′ end of the genomic mRNA (R-U5) and another region that mapped within the proximal 311 nt of gag. To aid comparative understanding of lentiviral encapsidation and refinement of FIV vector systems, we used RNase protection assays (RPAs) of cellular and virion RNAs to investigate in detail the gag element. mRNAs of subgenomic vectors as well as of full-length molecular clones were optimally packaged into viral particles and resulted in high-titer FIV vectors when they contained only the proximal 230 nucleotides (nt) of gag. Further 3′ truncations of gag sequences progressively diminished encapsidation and transduction. Deletion of the initial ninety 5′ nt of the gag gene abolished mRNA packaging, demonstrating that this segment is indispensable for encapsidation. Focusing further on this proximal sequence, we found that a deletion of only 13 nt at the 5′ end of gag impaired encapsidation of subgenomic vector and proviral RNAs.
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Lentiviral vector
- Packaging signal
ASJC Scopus subject areas