During retroviral maturation, the CA protein undergoes dramatic structural changes and establishes unique intermolecular interfaces in the mature capsid shell that are different from those that existed in the immature precursor. The most conserved region of CA, the major homology region (MHR), has been implicated in both immature and mature assembly, although the precise contribution of the MHR residues to each event has been largely undefined. To test the roles of specific MHR residues in mature capsid assembly, an in vitro system was developed that allowed for the first-time formation of Rous sarcoma virus CA into structures resembling authentic capsids. The ability of CA to assemble organized structures was destroyed by substitutions of two conserved hydrophobic MHR residues and restored by second-site suppressors, demonstrating that these MHR residues are required for the proper assembly of mature capsids in addition to any role that these amino acids may play in immature particle assembly. The defect caused by the MHR mutations was identified as an early step in the capsid assembly process. The results provide strong evidence for a model in which the hydrophobic residues of the MHR control a conformational reorganization of CA that is needed to initiate capsid assembly and suggest that the formation of an interdomain interaction occurs early during maturation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science