The HIV-2 Rev-response element: determining secondary structure and defining folding intermediates

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Interaction between the viral protein Rev and the RNA motifs known as Rev response elements (RREs) is required for transport of unspliced and partially spliced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 and HIV-2 RNAs from the nucleus to the cytoplasm during the later stages of virus replication. A more detailed understanding of these nucleoprotein complexes and the host factors with which they interact should accelerate the development of new antiviral drugs targetingcis-acting RNA regulatory signals. In this communication, the secondary structures of the HIV-2 RRE and two RNA folding precursors have been identified using the SHAPE (selective 2′-hydroxyl acylation analyzed by primer extension) chemical probing methodology together with a novel mathematical approach for determining the secondary structures of RNA conformers present in a mixture. A complementary chemical probing technique was also used to support these secondary structure models, to confirm that the RRE2 RNA undergoes a folding transition and to obtain information about the relative positioning of RRE2 substructures in three dimensions. Our analysis collectively suggests that the HIV-2 RRE undergoes two conformational transitions before assuming the energetically most favorable conformer. The 3D models for the HIV-2 RRE and folding intermediates are also presented, wherein the Rev-binding stem–loops (IIB and I) are located coaxially in the former, which is in agreement with previous models for HIV-1 Rev-RRE binding.

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