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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Enhancement of the basal-level activity of HIV-1 long terminal repeat by HIV-1 nucleocapsid protein.

Two HIV-1 proteins, Tat and NCp7 ( NC), have zinc finger-like structures. NC is a virion protein and has been shown to accumulate in the nucleus 8 h postinfection. Since transcription factors with zinc fingers assist the transcriptional activity of both RNA polymerases II and III, we examined the effect of NC on HIV-1 LTR-directed gene expression. The HIV-1 NC binds to the HIV-1 LTR and results in a mobility shift in polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Competition assays with cold probes revealed that the binding of NC and formation of a DNA-protein complex could be prevented by the addition of excess unlabeled LTR self-probe, but not the HIV-1 V3 envelope gene. The DNase I footprint analysis showed that NC binds to six regions within HIV-1 LTR, four of which are near the transcription start site. The NC alone enhances LTR basal-level activity in RNA runoff experiments. When the general transcription factors (GTFs) were added in the assay, NC enhances NF-kappaB, Sp1, and TFIIB-induced HIV-1 LTR-directed RNA transcription. RNA transcription directed by the adenovirus major late promoter, however, is not significantly affected by NC in the cell-free system. Transient transfection of human T lymphocytes with the plasmids containing HIV-1 nc or gag showed enhancement of LTR-CAT activity. Moreover, transfection of HIV-1 provirus containing mutations in NC zinc-finger domains dramatically decreases the enhancement activity in human T cells, in which HIV-1 LTR is stably integrated into the cellular genome. These observations show that NC binds to HIV-1 LTR and cooperatively enhances GTFs and NF-kappaB induced HIV-1 LTR basal-level activity. NC may play the role of a nucleation protein, which binds to LTR and enhances basal-level transcription by recruiting cellular transcription factors to the HIV-1 promoter in competition with cellular promoters.[1]


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