The roles of lipids and nucleic acids in HIV-1 assembly

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25 Scopus citations


During HIV-1 assembly, precursor Gag (PrGag) proteins are delivered to plasma membrane (PM) assembly sites, where they are triggered to oligomerize and bud from cells as immature virus particles. The delivery and triggering processes are coordinated by the PrGag matrix (MA) and nucleocapsid (NC) domains. Targeting of PrGag proteins to membranes enriched in cholesterol and phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PI[4,5]P2) is mediated by the MA domain, which also has been shown to bind both RNA and DNA. Evidence suggests that the nucleic-acid-binding function of MA serves to inhibit PrGag binding to inappropriate intracellular membranes, prior to delivery to the PM. At the PM, MA domains putatively trade RNA ligands for PI(4,5)P2 ligands, fostering high-affinity membrane binding. Triggering of oligomerization, budding, and virus particle release results when NC domains on adjacent PrGag proteins bind to viral RNA, leading to capsid (CA) domain oligomerization. This process leads to the assembly of immature virus shells in which hexamers of membrane-bound MA trimers appear to organize above interlinked CA hexamers. Here, we review the functions of retroviral MA proteins, with an emphasis on the nucleic-acid-binding capability of the HIV-1 MA protein, and its effects on membrane binding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number253
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 2014


  • Gag
  • Lipid
  • Matrix
  • PI(4.5)P2
  • RNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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