Analysis of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 containing HERV-K protease

Academic Article


  • The human endogenous retrovirus, type K (HERV-K) represents the most biologically active form of known retroelements present in the human genome. Several HERV-K genomes have transcriptionally active open reading frames and encode their own protease (PR). The HERV-K PR has been shown to authentically cleave human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) matrix-capsid peptide in the presence of HIV-1 PR inhibitors. This raised the possibility that HERV-K PR could complement HIV-1 PR function in HIV-1-infected individuals. To investigate this possibility, we fused the HIV-1 vpr gene to the HERV-K PR gene (vpr-PR). The vpr-PR expression plasmid and a PR-defective HIV-1 clone were cotransfected into 293T cells. Progeny virions were assayed for processing of the HIV-1 polyproteins by Western blot and for changes in infectivity. HERV-K PR fused to Vpr was incorporated into HIV-1 virions at a high concentration and cleaved the Gag and Pol precursor proteins. However, neither Gag nor Pol polyproteins were correctly processed. Moreover, the HERV-K PR did not restore virus infectivity. While these results do not exclude the possibility that the HERV-K PR could complement an HIV-1 PR whose function is impaired due to drugs or drug-resistant mutations, they clearly demonstrate that the HERV-K PR cannot substitute for the function of the wild-type HIV-1 PR.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Padow M; Lai L; Fisher RJ; Yu Chun Zhou; Wu X; Kappes JC; Towler EM
  • Start Page

  • 1973
  • End Page

  • 1980
  • Volume

  • 16
  • Issue

  • 18