The 5′ UTR of HIV-2 genomic RNA contains signaling motifs that regulate specific steps of the replication cycle. Two motifs of interest are the C-box and the G-box. The C-box is found in the 5′ untranslated region upstream of the primer binding site, while the G-box is found downstream from the major splice donor site, encompassing the gag start codon and flanking nucleotides. Together the C-box and the G-box form a long-range base-pairing interaction called the CGI. We and others have previously shown that formation of the CGI affects RNA dimerization in vitro and the positions of the C-box and the G-box are suggestive of potential roles of the CGI in other steps of HIV-2 replication. Therefore, we attempted to elucidate the role of the CGI using a viral SELEX approach. We constructed proviral DNA libraries containing randomized regions of the C-box or G-box paired with wild-type or mutant base-pairing partners. These proviral DNA libraries were transfected into COS-7 cells to produce viral libraries that were then used to infect permissive C8166 cells. The "winner" viruses were sequenced and further characterized. Our results demonstrate that there is strong selective pressure favoring viruses that can form a branched CGI. In addition, we show that the mutation of the C-box alone can enhance RNA encapsidation, and mutation of the G-box can alter the levels of Gag protein isoforms. These results suggest coordinated regulation of RNA translation, dimerization, and encapsidation during HIV-2 replication. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
- Viral SELEX