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1.  Structure and Expression of Mobile ETnII Retroelements and Their Coding-Competent MusD Relatives in the Mouse 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(21):11448-11458.
ETnII elements are mobile members of the repetitive early transposon family of mouse long terminal repeat (LTR) retroelements and have caused a number of mutations by inserting into genes. ETnII sequences lack retroviral genes, but the recent discovery of related MusD retroviral elements with regions similar to gag, pro, and pol suggests that MusD provides the proteins necessary for ETnII transposition in trans. For this study, we analyzed all ETnII elements in the draft sequence of the C57BL/6J genome and classified them into three subtypes (α, β, and γ) based on structural differences. We then used database searches and quantitative real-time PCR to determine the copy number and expression of ETnII and MusD elements in various mouse strains. In 7.5-day-old embryos of a mouse strain in which two mutations due to ETnII-β insertions have been identified (SELH/Bc), we detected a three- to sixfold higher level of ETnII-β and MusD transcripts than in control strains (C57BL/6J and LM/Bc). The increased ETnII transcription level can in part be attributed to a higher number of ETnII-β elements, but 70% of the MusD transcripts appear to have been derived from one or a few MusD elements that are not detectable in C57BL/6J mice. This element belongs to a young MusD subgroup with intact open reading frames and identical LTRs, suggesting that the overexpressed element(s) in SELH/Bc mice might provide the proteins for the retrotransposition of ETnII and MusD elements. We also show that ETnII is expressed up to 30-fold more than MusD, which could explain why only ETnII, but not MusD, elements have been positively identified as new insertions.
PMCID: PMC229353  PMID: 14557630
2.  Preferential Epigenetic Suppression of the Autonomous MusD over the Nonautonomous ETn Mouse Retrotransposons▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(9):2456-2468.
Nonautonomous retrotransposon subfamilies are often amplified in preference to their coding-competent relatives. However, the mechanisms responsible for such replicative success are poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that the autonomous MusD long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons are subject to greater epigenetic silencing than their nonautonomous cousins, the early transposons (ETns), which are expressed at a 170-fold-higher level than MusD in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. We show that, in ES cells, 5′ LTRs and the downstream region of MusD elements are more heavily methylated and are associated with less-activating and more-repressive histone modifications than the highly similar ETnII sequences. The internal region of MusD likely contributes to their silencing, as transgenes with MusD, compared to those with ETnII sequences, show reduced reporter gene expression and a higher level of repressive histone marks. Genomic distribution patterns of MusD and ETn elements are consistent with stronger selection against MusD elements within introns, suggesting that MusD-associated silencing marks can negatively impact genes. We propose a model in which nonautonomous retrotransposons may gain transcriptional and retrotranspositional advantages over their coding-competent counterparts by elimination of the CpG-rich retroviral sequence targeting the autonomous subfamilies for silencing.
PMCID: PMC2668366  PMID: 19273603
3.  Restriction by APOBEC3 proteins of endogenous retroviruses with an extracellular life cycle: ex vivo effects and in vivo "traces" on the murine IAPE and human HERV-K elements 
Retrovirology  2008;5:75.
APOBEC3 cytosine deaminases have been demonstrated to restrict infectivity of a series of retroviruses, with different efficiencies depending on the retrovirus. In addition, APOBEC3 proteins can severely restrict the intracellular transposition of a series of retroelements with a strictly intracellular life cycle, including the murine IAP and MusD LTR-retrotransposons.
Here we show that the IAPE element, which is the infectious progenitor of the strictly intracellular IAP elements, and the infectious human endogenous retrovirus HERV-K are restricted by both murine and human APOBEC3 proteins in an ex vivo assay for infectivity, with evidence in most cases of strand-specific G-to-A editing of the proviruses, with the expected signatures. In silico analysis of the naturally occurring genomic copies of the corresponding endogenous elements performed on the mouse and human genomes discloses "traces" of APOBEC3-editing, with the specific signature of the murine APOBEC3 and human APOBEC3G enzymes, respectively, and to a variable extent depending on the family member.
These results indicate that the IAPE and HERV-K elements, which can only replicate via an extracellular infection cycle, have been restricted at the time of their entry, amplification and integration into their target host genomes by definite APOBEC3 proteins, most probably acting in evolution to limit the mutagenic effect of these endogenized extracellular parasites.
PMCID: PMC2531183  PMID: 18702815
4.  Novel Mouse Type D Endogenous Proviruses and ETn Elements Share Long Terminal Repeat and Internal Sequences 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(16):7221-7229.
The repetitive ETn (early transposon) family of sequences represents an active “mobile mutagen” in the mouse genome. The presence of long terminal repeats (LTRs) and other diagnostic features indicate that ETns are retrotransposons but they contain no long open reading frames or documented similarity to the genes of known retroviruses or other retroelements. Thus, the mechanisms responsible for the mobility of this family have been unknown. In this study, we used computer searches to detect a small region of previously unrecognized type D retroviral pol homology within ETn elements. This small region was used to isolate two mouse endogenous proviral elements with gag, pro, and pol genes similar to simian type D viruses. This new family of mouse endogenous proviruses, termed MusD, is present in several hundred copies in the genome. Interestingly, the MusD LTRs, 3′ internal region, and the 5′ region expected to contain the packaging signal are very closely related to members of the ETn subfamily that have recently transposed. Analysis of different mouse strains indicates that MusD elements predate the existence of the mobile subfamily of ETns. These findings indicate that the ETn family was likely created via recombination events resulting in a near complete substitution of MusD coding sequences with unrelated DNA. Furthermore, these results suggest that ETn transcripts retrotranspose using proteins provided by MusD proviruses.
PMCID: PMC112243  PMID: 10906176
5.  Transcriptional Regulation of Early Transposon Elements, an Active Family of Mouse Long Terminal Repeat Retrotransposons†  
Journal of Virology  2005;79(22):13865-13874.
While early transposon (ETn) endogenous retrovirus (ERV)-like elements are known to be active insertional mutagens in the mouse, little is known about their transcriptional regulation. ETns are transcribed during early mouse embryogenesis in embryonic stem (ES) and embryonic carcinoma (EC) cell lines. Despite their lack of coding potential, some ETns remain transposition competent through their use of reverse transcriptase encoded by a related group of ERVs—MusD elements. In this study, we have confirmed high expression levels of ETn and MusD elements in ES and EC cells and have demonstrated an increase in the copy number of ETnII elements in the EC P19 cell line. Using transient transfections, we have shown that ETnII and MusD LTRs are much more active as promoters in P19 cells than in NIH 3T3 cells, indicating that genomic context and methylation are not the only factors determining endogenous transcriptional activity of ETns. Three sites in the 5′ part of the long terminal repeat (LTR) were demonstrated to bind Sp1 and Sp3 transcription factors and were found to be important for high LTR promoter activity in P19 cells, suggesting that as yet unidentified Sp binding partners are involved in the regulation of ETn activity in undifferentiated cells. Finally, we found multiple transcription start sites within the ETn LTR and have shown that the LTR retains significant promoter activity in the absence of its noncanonical TATA box. These findings lend insight into the transcriptional regulation of this family of mobile mouse retrotransposons.
PMCID: PMC1280189  PMID: 16254322
6.  Genome-Wide Assessments Reveal Extremely High Levels of Polymorphism of Two Active Families of Mouse Endogenous Retroviral Elements 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(2):e1000007.
Endogenous retroviral elements (ERVs) in mice are significant genomic mutagens, causing ∼10% of all reported spontaneous germ line mutations in laboratory strains. The majority of these mutations are due to insertions of two high copy ERV families, the IAP and ETn/MusD elements. This significant level of ongoing retrotranspositional activity suggests that inbred mice are highly variable in content of these two ERV groups. However, no comprehensive genome-wide studies have been performed to assess their level of polymorphism. Here we compared three test strains, for which sufficient genomic sequence is available, to each other and to the reference C57BL/6J genome and detected very high levels of insertional polymorphism for both ERV families, with an estimated false discovery rate of only 0.4%. Specifically, we found that at least 60% of IAP and 25% of ETn/MusD elements detected in any strain are absent in one or more of the other three strains. The polymorphic nature of a set of 40 ETn/MusD elements found within gene introns was confirmed using genomic PCR on DNA from a panel of mouse strains. For some cases, we detected gene-splicing abnormalities involving the ERV and obtained additional evidence for decreased gene expression in strains carrying the insertion. In total, we identified nearly 700 polymorphic IAP or ETn/MusD ERVs or solitary LTRs that reside in gene introns, providing potential candidates that may contribute to gene expression differences among strains. These extreme levels of polymorphism suggest that ERV insertions play a significant role in genetic drift of mouse lines.
Author Summary
The laboratory mouse is the most widely used mammal for biological research. Hundreds of inbred mouse strains have been developed that vary in characteristics such as susceptibility to cancer or other diseases. There is much interest in uncovering differences between strains that result in different traits and, to aid this effort, millions of single nucleotide differences or polymorphisms between strains have been cataloged. To date, there has been less emphasis placed on other sources of genetic variation. In this study, we have conducted a genome-wide analysis to examine the level of polymorphism of mouse endogenous retroviral sequences (ERVs). ERVs are derived from infectious retroviruses that now exist in the genome and are inherited as part of chromosomes. Unlike in humans, genomic insertions of ERVs cause many new mutations in mice but their extent of variation between strains has been difficult to study because of their high copy numbers. By comparing genomic sequences of four common mouse strains, we found very high levels of polymorphism for two large active families of ERVs. Moreover, we documented nearly 700 polymorphic ERVs located within gene introns and found evidence that some of these affect gene transcript levels. This study demonstrates that ERV polymorphisms are a major source of genetic variability among mouse strains and likely contribute to strain-specific traits.
PMCID: PMC2265474  PMID: 18454193
7.  Retrotransposon-Induced Heterochromatin Spreading in the Mouse Revealed by Insertional Polymorphisms 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(9):e1002301.
The “arms race” relationship between transposable elements (TEs) and their host has promoted a series of epigenetic silencing mechanisms directed against TEs. Retrotransposons, a class of TEs, are often located in repressed regions and are thought to induce heterochromatin formation and spreading. However, direct evidence for TE–induced local heterochromatin in mammals is surprisingly scarce. To examine this phenomenon, we chose two mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell lines that possess insertionally polymorphic retrotransposons (IAP, ETn/MusD, and LINE elements) at specific loci in one cell line but not the other. Employing ChIP-seq data for these cell lines, we show that IAP elements robustly induce H3K9me3 and H4K20me3 marks in flanking genomic DNA. In contrast, such heterochromatin is not induced by LINE copies and only by a minority of polymorphic ETn/MusD copies. DNA methylation is independent of the presence of IAP copies, since it is present in flanking regions of both full and empty sites. Finally, such spreading into genes appears to be rare, since the transcriptional start sites of very few genes are less than one Kb from an IAP. However, the B3galtl gene is subject to transcriptional silencing via IAP-induced heterochromatin. Hence, although rare, IAP-induced local heterochromatin spreading into nearby genes may influence expression and, in turn, host fitness.
Author Summary
Transposable elements (TEs) are often thought to be harmful because of their potential to spread heterochromatin (repressive chromatin) into nearby sequences. However, there are few examples of spreading of heterochromatin caused by TEs, even though they are often found within repressive chromatin. We exploited natural variation in TE integrations to study heterochromatin induction. Specifically, we compared chromatin states of two mouse embryonic stem cell lines harboring polymorphic retrotransposons of three families, such that one line possesses a particular TE copy (full site) while the other does not (empty site). Nearly all IAP copies, a family of retroviral-like elements, are able to strongly induce repressive chromatin surrounding their insertion sites, with repressive histone modifications extending at least one kb from the IAP. This heterochromatin induction was not observed for the LINE family of non-viral retrotransposons and for only a minority of copies of the ETn/MusD retroviral-like family. We found only one gene that was partly silenced by IAP-induced chromatin. Therefore, while induction of repressive chromatin occurs after IAP insertion, measurable impacts on host gene expression are rare. Nonetheless, this phenomenon may play a role in rapid change in gene expression and therefore in host adaptive potential.
PMCID: PMC3183085  PMID: 21980304
8.  Identification of a Conserved Residue of Foamy Virus Gag Required for Intracellular Capsid Assembly 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(15):6857-6864.
In contrast to all retroviruses but similar to the hepatitis B virus, foamy viruses (FV) require expression of the envelope protein for budding of intracellular capsids from the cell, suggesting a specific interaction between the Gag and Env proteins. Capsid assembly occurs in the cytoplasm of infected cells in a manner similar to that for the B- and D-type viruses; however, in contrast to these retroviruses, FV Gag lacks an N-terminal myristylation signal and capsids are not targeted to the plasma membrane (PM). We have found that mutation of an absolutely conserved arginine (Arg) residue at position 50 to alanine (R50A) of the simian foamy virus SFV cpz(hu) inhibits proper capsid assembly and abolishes viral budding even in the presence of the envelope (Env) glycoproteins. Particle assembly and extracellular release of virus can be restored to this mutant with the addition of an N-terminal Src myristylation signal (Myr-R50A), presumably by providing an alternate site for assembly to occur at the PM. In addition, the strict requirement of Env expression for capsid budding can be bypassed by addition of a PM-targeting signal to Gag. These results suggest that intracellular capsid assembly may be mediated by a signal akin to the cytoplasmic targeting and retention signal CTRS found in Mason-Pfizer monkey virus and that FV Gag has the inherent ability to assemble capsids at multiple sites like conventional retroviruses. The necessity of Env expression for particle egress is most probably due to the lack of a membrane-targeting signal within FV Gag to direct capsids to the PM for release and indicates that Gag-Env interactions are essential to drive particle budding.
PMCID: PMC114413  PMID: 11435565
9.  Clathrin Facilitates the Morphogenesis of Retrovirus Particles 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(6):e1002119.
The morphogenesis of retroviral particles is driven by Gag and GagPol proteins that provide the major structural component and enzymatic activities required for particle assembly and maturation. In addition, a number of cellular proteins are found in retrovirus particles; some of these are important for viral replication, but many lack a known functional role. One such protein is clathrin, which is assumed to be passively incorporated into virions due to its abundance at the plasma membrane. We found that clathrin is not only exceptionally abundant in highly purified HIV-1 particles but is recruited with high specificity. In particular, the HIV-1 Pol protein was absolutely required for clathrin incorporation and point mutations in reverse transcriptase or integrase domains of Pol could abolish incorporation. Clathrin was also specifically incorporated into other retrovirus particles, including members of the lentivirus (simian immunodeficiency virus, SIVmac), gammaretrovirus (murine leukemia virus, MLV) and betaretrovirus (Mason-Pfizer monkey virus, M-PMV) genera. However, unlike HIV-1, these other retroviruses recruited clathrin primarily using peptide motifs in their respective Gag proteins that mimicked motifs found in cellular clathrin adaptors. Perturbation of clathrin incorporation into these retroviruses, via mutagenesis of viral proteins, siRNA based clathrin depletion or adaptor protein (AP180) induced clathrin sequestration, had a range of effects on the accuracy of particle morphogenesis. These effects varied according to which retrovirus was examined, and included Gag and/or Pol protein destabilization, inhibition of particle assembly and reduction in virion infectivity. For each retrovirus examined, clathrin incorporation appeared to be important for optimal replication. These data indicate that a number of retroviruses employ clathrin to facilitate the accurate morphogenesis of infectious particles. We propose a model in which clathrin contributes to the spatial organization of Gag and Pol proteins, and thereby regulates proteolytic processing of virion components during particle assembly.
Author Summary
The assembly and maturation of infectious retroviruses is driven by two viral proteins, Gag and Pol. Additionally, a number of cellular proteins are found in retrovirus particles, many of which lack a known functional role. One such protein is clathrin, which normally mediates several physiological processes in cells and was previously thought to be only passively incorporated into virions. In this study we show that clathrin is actively, specifically and abundantly incorporated into retrovirus particles. In several cases, retroviral proteins encode peptide motifs that mimic those found in cellular adaptor proteins that are responsible for clathrin recruitment. The range of retroviruses into which clathrin is packaged includes human and simian immunodeficiency viruses as well as other murine and simian retroviruses. Manipulations that prevented clathrin incorporation into virions also caused a variety of defects in the genesis of infectious retroviruses, including viral protein destabilization, inhibition of particle assembly and release, and reduction in virion infectiousness. The precise nature of the defect varied according to which particular retrovirus was examined. Overall these studies suggest that clathrin is frequently employed by retroviruses to facilitate the accurate assembly of infectious virions.
PMCID: PMC3128127  PMID: 21738476
10.  Co-translational Localization of an LTR-Retrotransposon RNA to the Endoplasmic Reticulum Nucleates Virus-Like Particle Assembly Sites 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004219.
The transcript of retrovirus-like transposons functions as an mRNA for synthesis of capsid and replication proteins and as the genomic RNA of virus-like particles (VLPs), wherein the genome is replicated. Retrotransposon RNA and proteins coalesce in a cytoplasmic focus, or retrosome, to initiate VLP assembly, but it is not known how the retrosome is nucleated. We determined how the RNA and Gag protein of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Ty1 retrotransposon are directed to the retrosome. We found that Ty1 RNA is translated in association with signal recognition particle (SRP), a universally conserved chaperone that binds specific ribosome-nascent chain (RNC) complexes and targets the nascent peptide to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Gag is translocated to the ER lumen; yet, it is also found in the cytoplasm, associated with SRP-RNC complexes. In the absence of ER translocation, Gag is synthesized but rapidly degraded, and Ty1 RNA does not coalesce in retrosomes. These findings suggest that Gag adopts a stable conformation in the ER lumen, is retrotranslocated to the cytoplasm, binds to Ty1 RNA on SRP-RNC complexes and multimerizes to nucleate retrosomes. Consistent with this model, we show that slowing the rate of co-translational ER translocation by limiting SRP increases the prevalence of retrosomes, while suppressing the translocation defect of srp hypomorphs by slowing translational elongation rapidly decreases retrosome formation. Thus, retrosomes are dynamic foci of Ty1 RNA-RNC complexes whose formation is modulated by the rate of co-translational ER translocation. Together, these findings suggest that translating Ty1 mRNA and the genomic RNA of VLPs originate in a single pool and moreover, that co-translational localization of Ty1 RNA nucleates the presumptive VLP assembly site. The separation of nascent Gag from its RNA template by transit through the ER allows Gag to bind translating Ty1 RNA without displaying a cis-preference for its encoding RNA.
Author Summary
Retrotransposons are mobile elements that have invaded the genomes of organisms from bacteria to humans. Facilitated by host co-factors, retrotransposon proteins copy their RNA genomes into DNA that integrates into the host genome, causing mutations and genome instability. The yeast Ty1 element belongs to a family of retrotransposons that are related to infectious retroviruses. Ty1 RNA and its coat protein, Gag, assemble into virus-like particles, wherein the RNA is copied into DNA. It was not previously known how Ty1 RNA and Gag are concentrated in a specific cellular location to initiate the assembly of virus-like particles. In this study, we show that Ty1 RNA is brought to the presumptive assembly site during translation by the protein chaperone, signal recognition particle. As Ty1 RNA is translated, the nascent Gag polypeptide enters the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum, where Gag adopts a stable conformation before returning to the cytoplasm to bind to translating Ty1 RNA. An interaction between Gag molecules bound to translating Ty1 RNA results in the nucleation of the virus-like particle assembly site. Our findings identify new host co-factors in retrotransposon mobility and suggest potential approaches to controlling retrotransposon-associated genome instability in aging and cancer.
PMCID: PMC3945221  PMID: 24603646
11.  The DNA Deaminase Activity of Human APOBEC3G Is Required for Ty1, MusD, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Restriction▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(6):2652-2660.
Human APOBEC3G and several other APOBEC3 proteins have been shown to inhibit the replication of a variety of retrotransposons and retroviruses. All of these enzymes can deaminate cytosines within single-strand DNA, but the overall importance of this conserved activity in retroelement restriction has been questioned by reports of deaminase-independent mechanisms. Here, three distinct retroelements, a yeast retrotransposon, Ty1, a murine endogenous retrovirus, MusD, and a lentivirus, human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), were used to evaluate the relative contributions of deaminase-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Although human APOBEC3G can restrict the replication of all three of these retroelements, APOBEC3G lacking the catalytic glutamate (E259Q) was clearly defective. This phenotype was particularly clear in experiments with low levels of APOBEC3G expression. In contrast, purposeful overexpression of APOBEC3G-E259Q was able to cause modest to severe reductions in the replication of Ty1, MusD, and HIV-1(ΔVif). The importance of these observations was highlighted by data showing that CEM-SS T-cell lines expressing near-physiologic levels of APOBEC3G-E259Q failed to inhibit the replication of HIV-1(ΔVif), whereas similar levels of wild-type APOBEC3G fully suppressed virus infectivity. Despite the requirement for DNA deamination, uracil DNA glycosylase did not modulate APOBEC3G-dependent restriction of Ty1 or HIV-1(ΔVif), further supporting prior studies indicating that the major uracil excision repair system of cells is not involved. In conclusion, the absolute requirement for the catalytic glutamate of APOBEC3G in Ty1, MusD, and HIV-1 restriction strongly indicates that DNA cytosine deamination is an essential part of the mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2259018  PMID: 18184715
12.  AID can restrict L1 retrotransposition suggesting a dual role in innate and adaptive immunity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(6):1854-1867.
Retrotransposons make up over 40% of the mammalian genome. Some copies are still capable of mobilizing and new insertions promote genetic variation. Several members of the APOBEC3 family of DNA cytosine deaminases function to limit the replication of a variety of retroelements, such as the long-terminal repeat (LTR)-containing MusD and Ty1 elements, and that of the non-LTR retrotransposons, L1 and Alu. However, the APOBEC3 genes are limited to mammalian lineages, whereas retrotransposons are far more widespread. This raises the question of what cellular factors control retroelement transposition in species that lack APOBEC3 genes. A strong phylogenetic case can be made that an ancestral activation-induced deaminase (AID)-like gene duplicated and diverged to root the APOBEC3 lineage in mammals. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that present-day AID proteins possess anti-retroelement activity. We found that AID can inhibit the retrotransposition of L1 through a DNA deamination-independent mechanism. This mechanism may manifest in the cytoplasmic compartment co- or posttranslationally. Together with evidence for AID expression in the ovary, our data combined to suggest that AID has innate immune functions in addition to its integral roles in creating antibody diversity.
PMCID: PMC2665220  PMID: 19188259
13.  The Breadth of Antiviral Activity of Apobec3DE in Chimpanzees Has Been Driven by Positive Selection ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(21):11361-11371.
The Apobec3 family of cytidine deaminases can inhibit the replication of retroviruses and retrotransposons. Human and chimpanzee genomes encode seven Apobec3 paralogs; of these, Apobec3DE has the greatest sequence divergence between humans and chimpanzees. Here we show that even though human and chimpanzee Apobec3DEs are very divergent, the two orthologs similarly restrict long terminal repeat (LTR) and non-LTR retrotransposons (MusD and Alu, respectively). However, chimpanzee Apobec3DE also potently restricts two lentiviruses, human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that infects African green monkeys (SIVagmTAN), unlike human Apobec3DE, which has poor antiviral activity against these same viruses. This difference between human and chimpanzee Apobec3DE in the ability to restrict retroviruses is not due to different levels of Apobec3DE protein incorporation into virions but rather to the ability of Apobec3DE to deaminate the viral genome in target cells. We further show that Apobec3DE rapidly evolved in chimpanzee ancestors approximately 2 to 6 million years ago and that this evolution drove the increased breadth of chimpanzee Apobec3DE antiviral activity to its current high activity against some lentiviruses. Despite a difference in target specificities between human and chimpanzee Apobec3DE, Apobec3DE is likely to currently play a role in host defense against retroelements in both species.
PMCID: PMC3194980  PMID: 21835794
14.  The pp24 phosphoprotein of Mason-Pfizer monkey virus contributes to viral genome packaging 
Retrovirology  2005;2:68.
The Gag protein of Mason-Pfizer monkey virus, a betaretrovirus, contains a phosphoprotein that is cleaved into the Np24 protein and the phosphoprotein pp16/18 during virus maturation. Previous studies by Yasuda and Hunter (J. Virology. 1998. 72:4095–4103) have demonstrated that pp16/18 contains a viral late domain required for budding and that the Np24 protein plays a role during the virus life cycle since deletion of this N-terminal domain blocked virus replication. The function of the Np24 domain, however, is not known.
Here we identify a region of basic residues (KKPKR) within the Np24 domain that is highly conserved among the phosphoproteins of various betaretroviruses. We show that this KKPKR motif is required for virus replication yet dispensable for procapsid assembly, membrane targeting, budding and release, particle maturation, or viral glycoprotein packaging. Additional experiments indicated that deletion of this motif reduced viral RNA packaging 6–8 fold and affected the transient association of Gag with nuclear pores.
These results demonstrate that the Np24 domain plays an important role in RNA packaging and is in agreement with evidence that suggests that correct intracellular targeting of Gag to the nuclear compartment is an fundamental step in the retroviral life cycle.
PMCID: PMC1308863  PMID: 16274484
15.  Expression of intracisternal A-particle-related retroviral element-encoded envelope proteins detected in cell lines. 
Journal of Virology  1992;66(4):1915-1923.
Intracisternal A-particle (IAP) retrotransposons of rodents express gag and pol proteins for assembly of intracellular viruslike particles but lack an env gene. The recently described IAP-related family of retroviral elements contains a reading frame with close resemblance to retroviral env genes (IAPEs) (F. U. Reuss and H. C. Schaller, J. Virol. 65:5702-5709, 1991). I now report the analysis of cellular IAPE mRNAs and detection of IAPE env proteins. IAPE elements are transcribed in cell lines NH15-CA2 and AtT20. Four major transcripts of 4.2, 3.9, 2.8, and 1.3 kb are detected and characterized by probes specific for defined regions of the cloned IAPE-1 cDNA. The 2.8-kb mRNA is shown to lack gag and pol genes but comprises an env gene and U3 region, as expected for a subgenomic env mRNA. Polymerase chain reaction amplification and cloning of such mRNAs confirmed the absence of gag and pol genes 5' from the env gene and implicates env mRNA generation by a splicing event. A polyclonal anti-IAPE env antiserum, raised against a bacterial IAPE-env fusion protein, specifically detects N-glycosylated env proteins of 91 kDa or less in cell lines positive for IAPE mRNA. IAPE env proteins of different sizes represent independent translation products. After inhibition of N-glycosylation, env proteins in the size predicted from the env gene sequence or smaller are present. These results provide evidence that putative IAPE env proteins are synthesized in vivo. Envelope protein expression by an IAP-related retroviral element identifies IAPEs as a possible missing link between IAP retrotransposons and retroviruses.
PMCID: PMC288979  PMID: 1548748
16.  The Mouse IAPE Endogenous Retrovirus Can Infect Cells through Any of the Five GPI-Anchored EphrinA Proteins 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(10):e1002309.
The IAPE (Intracisternal A-type Particles elements with an Envelope) family of murine endogenous retroelements is present at more than 200 copies in the mouse genome. We had previously identified a single copy that proved to be fully functional, i.e. which can generate viral particles budding out of the cell and infectious on a series of cells, including human cells. We also showed that IAPE are the progenitors of the highly reiterated IAP elements. The latter are now strictly intracellular retrotransposons, due to the loss of the envelope gene and re-localisation of the associated particles in the course of evolution. In the present study we searched for the cellular receptor of the IAPE elements, by using a lentiviral human cDNA library and a pseudotype assay on transduced cells. We identified Ephrin A4, a GPI-anchored molecule involved in several developmental processes, as a receptor for the IAPE pseudotypes. We also found that the other 4 members of the Ephrin A family –but not those of the closely related Ephrin B family- were also able to mediate IAPE cell entry, thus significantly increasing the amount of possible cell types susceptible to IAPE infection. We show that these include mouse germline cells, as illustrated by immunohistochemistry experiments, consistent with IAPE genomic amplification by successive re-infection. We propose that the uncovered properties of the identified receptors played a role in the accumulation of IAPE elements in the mouse genome, and in the survival of a functional copy.
Author Summary
In mammals, nearly half the genome is composed of reiterated scattered sequences. Some of them, called endogenous retroviruses, have a structure similar to that observed for the integrated form of infectious retroviruses. The current theory to account for their presence is that an infectious retrovirus once infected the germline of its host. This viral genome was then transmitted to the progeny and expressed from there, producing new infectious particles, which could re-infect new germline cells and thus increase the viral genomic copy number. However no evidence has yet been provided to support this model. In this study, we identify a family of five cellular proteins, the Ephrin As, as receptors for a model mouse family of endogenous retroviruses, the IAPE elements. We analyse their expression pattern and show that both the oocytes and some male germline cells express Ephrin A proteins and can thus be infected by IAPE particles. This finding strongly supports the current model of ERVs amplification. In addition, the IAPE envelope ability to use five different cellular receptors suggests that it might be impossible for the host to evolve a resistance against this viral element, and provides a clue on how the IAPE family survived so long in the mouse genome.
PMCID: PMC3197615  PMID: 22028653
17.  A Unique Spumavirus Gag N-terminal Domain with Functional Properties of Orthoretroviral Matrix and Capsid 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(5):e1003376.
The Spumaretrovirinae, or foamyviruses (FVs) are complex retroviruses that infect many species of monkey and ape. Although FV infection is apparently benign, trans-species zoonosis is commonplace and has resulted in the isolation of the Prototypic Foamy Virus (PFV) from human sources and the potential for germ-line transmission. Despite little sequence homology, FV and orthoretroviral Gag proteins perform equivalent functions, including genome packaging, virion assembly, trafficking and membrane targeting. In addition, PFV Gag interacts with the FV Envelope (Env) protein to facilitate budding of infectious particles. Presently, there is a paucity of structural information with regards FVs and it is unclear how disparate FV and orthoretroviral Gag molecules share the same function. Therefore, in order to probe the functional overlap of FV and orthoretroviral Gag and learn more about FV egress and replication we have undertaken a structural, biophysical and virological study of PFV-Gag. We present the crystal structure of a dimeric amino terminal domain from PFV, Gag-NtD, both free and in complex with the leader peptide of PFV Env. The structure comprises a head domain together with a coiled coil that forms the dimer interface and despite the shared function it is entirely unrelated to either the capsid or matrix of Gag from other retroviruses. Furthermore, we present structural, biochemical and virological data that reveal the molecular details of the essential Gag-Env interaction and in addition we also examine the specificity of Trim5α restriction of PFV. These data provide the first information with regards to FV structural proteins and suggest a model for convergent evolution of gag genes where structurally unrelated molecules have become functionally equivalent.
Author Summary
Foamyviruses (FVs) or spuma-retroviruses derive their name from the cytopathic effects they cause in cell culture. By contrast, infection in humans is benign and FVs have entered the human population through zoonosis from apes resulting in the emergence of Prototypic Foamyvirus (PFV). Like all retroviruses FVs contain gag, pol and env structural genes and replicate through reverse-transcription and host genome integration. Gag, the major structural protein, is required for genome packaging, virion assembly, trafficking and egress. However, although functionally equivalent, FV and orthoretroviral Gag share little sequence homology and it is unclear how they perform the same function. Therefore, to understand more about the relationship between FV and orthoretroviral replication we have carried out structural/virological studies of PFV Gag. We present the structure of Gag-NtD, a unique domain found only in FV Gag and show that despite functional equivalence, Gag-NtD is entirely structurally unrelated to orthoretroviral Gag. We also provide the molecular details of an essential interaction between Gag-NtD and the FV Envelope and demonstrate that Gag-NtD contains the determinants of Trim5α restriction. Our findings are discussed in terms of evolutionary convergence of retroviruses and the implications of alternative arrangements of Gag on pattern recognition by viral restriction factors.
PMCID: PMC3649970  PMID: 23675305
18.  Intrinsic restriction activity by apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzyme APOBEC1 against the mobility of autonomous retrotransposons 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(13):5538-5554.
The ability of mammalian cytidine deaminases encoded by the APOBEC3 (A3) genes to restrict a broad number of endogenous retroelements and exogenous retroviruses, including murine leukemia virus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1, is now well established. The RNA editing family member apolipoprotein B (apo B)-editing catalytic subunit 1 (APOBEC1; A1) from a variety of mammalian species, a protein involved in lipid transport and which mediates C–U deamination of mRNA for apo B, has also been shown to modify a range of exogenous retroviruses, but its activity against endogenous retroelements remains unclear. Here, we show in cell culture-based retrotransposition assays that A1 family proteins from multiple mammalian species can also reduce the mobility and infectivity potential of LINE-1 (long interspersed nucleotide sequence-1, L1) and long-terminal repeats (LTRs) retrotransposons (or endogenous retroviruses), such as murine intracisternal A-particle (IAP) and MusD sequences. The anti-L1 activity of A1 was mainly mediated by a deamination-independent mechanism, and was not affected by subcellular localization of the proteins. In contrast, the inhibition of LTR-retrotransposons appeared to require the deaminase activity of A1 proteins. Thus, the AID/APOBEC family proteins including A1s employ multiple mechanisms to regulate the mobility of autonomous retrotransposons in several mammalian species.
PMCID: PMC3141244  PMID: 21398638
19.  Sequences within Both the 5′ UTR and Gag Are Required for Optimal In Vivo Packaging and Propagation of Mouse Mammary Tumor Virus (MMTV) Genomic RNA 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47088.
This study mapped regions of genomic RNA (gRNA) important for packaging and propagation of mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV). MMTV is a type B betaretrovirus which preassembles intracellularly, a phenomenon distinct from retroviruses that assemble the progeny virion at cell surface just before budding such as the type C human and feline immunodeficiency viruses (HIV and FIV). Studies of FIV and Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (MPMV), a type D betaretrovirus with similar intracellular virion assembly processes as MMTV, have shown that the 5′ untranslated region (5′ UTR) and 5′ end of gag constitute important packaging determinants for gRNA.
Three series of MMTV transfer vectors containing incremental amounts of gag or 5′ UTR sequences, or incremental amounts of 5′ UTR in the presence of 400 nucleotides (nt) of gag were constructed to delineate the extent of 5′ sequences that may be involved in MMTV gRNA packaging. Real time PCR measured the packaging efficiency of these vector RNAs into MMTV particles generated by co-transfection of MMTV Gag/Pol, vesicular stomatitis virus envelope glycoprotein (VSV-G Env), and individual transfer vectors into human 293T cells. Transfer vector RNA propagation was monitored by measuring transduction of target HeLaT4 cells following infection with viral particles containing a hygromycin resistance gene expression cassette on the packaged RNA.
Principal Findings
MMTV requires the entire 5′ UTR and a minimum of ∼120 nucleotide (nt) at the 5′ end of gag for not only efficient gRNA packaging but also propagation of MMTV-based transfer vector RNAs. Vector RNAs without the entire 5′ UTR were defective for both efficient packaging and propagation into target cells.
These results reveal that the 5′ end of MMTV genome is critical for both gRNA packaging and propagation, unlike the recently delineated FIV and MPMV packaging determinants that have been shown to be of bipartite nature.
PMCID: PMC3473059  PMID: 23077548
20.  A Cell-Line-Specific Defect in the Intracellular Transport and Release of Assembled Retroviral Capsids 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(2):784-795.
Retrovirus assembly involves a complex series of events in which a large number of proteins must be targeted to a point on the plasma membrane where immature viruses bud from the cell. Gag polyproteins of most retroviruses assemble an immature capsid on the cytoplasmic side of the plasma membrane during the budding process (C-type assembly), but a few assemble immature capsids deep in the cytoplasm and are then transported to the plasma membrane (B- or D-type assembly), where they are enveloped. With both assembly phenotypes, Gag polyproteins must be transported to the site of viral budding in either a relatively unassembled form (C type) or a completely assembled form (B and D types). The molecular nature of this transport process and the host cell factors that are involved have remained obscure. During the development of a recombinant baculovirus/insect cell system for the expression of both C-type and D-type Gag polyproteins, we discovered an insect cell line (High Five) with two distinct defects that resulted in the reduced release of virus-like particles. The first of these was a pronounced defect in the transport of D-type but not C-type Gag polyproteins to the plasma membrane. High Five cells expressing wild-type Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) Gag precursors accumulate assembled immature capsids in large cytoplasmic aggregates similar to a transport-defective mutant (MA-A18V). In contrast, a larger fraction of the Gag molecules encoded by the M-PMV C-type morphogenesis mutant (MA-R55W) and those of human immunodeficiency virus were transported to the plasma membrane for assembly and budding of virions. When pulse-labeled Gag precursors from High Five cells were fractionated on velocity gradients, they sedimented more rapidly, indicating that they are sequestered in a higher-molecular-mass complex. Compared to Sf9 insect cells, the High Five cells also demonstrate a defect in the release of C-type virus particles. These findings support the hypothesis that host cell factors are important in the process of Gag transport and in the release of enveloped viral particles.
PMCID: PMC111598  PMID: 10623740
21.  Gammaretroviral pol sequences act in cis to direct polysome loading and NXF1/NXT-dependent protein production by gag-encoded RNA 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):73.
All retroviruses synthesize essential proteins via alternatively spliced mRNAs. Retrovirus genera, though, exploit different mechanisms to coordinate the synthesis of proteins from alternatively spliced mRNAs. The best studied of these retroviral, post-transcriptional effectors are the trans-acting Rev protein of lentiviruses and the cis-acting constitutive transport element (CTE) of the betaretrovirus Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (MPMV). How members of the gammaretrovirus genus translate protein from unspliced RNA has not been elucidated.
The mechanism by which two gammaretroviruses, XMRV and MLV, synthesize the Gag polyprotein (Pr65Gag) from full-length, unspliced mRNA was investigated here. The yield of Pr65Gag from a gag–only expression plasmid was found to be at least 30-fold less than that from an otherwise isogenic gag-pol expression plasmid. A frameshift mutation disrupting the pol open reading frame within the gag-pol expression plasmid did not decrease Pr65Gag production and 398 silent nucleotide changes engineered into gag rendered Pr65Gag synthesis pol-independent. These results are consistent with pol-encoded RNA acting in cis to promote Pr65Gag translation. Two independently-acting pol fragments were identified by screening 17 pol deletion mutations. To determine the mechanism by which pol promoted Pr65Gag synthesis, gag RNA in total and cytoplasmic fractions was quantitated by northern blot and by RT-PCR. The pol sequences caused, maximally, three-fold increase in total or cytoplasmic gag mRNA. Instead, pol sequences increased gag mRNA association with polyribosomes ~100-fold, a magnitude sufficient to explain the increase in Pr65Gag translation efficiency. The MPMV CTE, an NXF1-binding element, substituted for pol in promoting Pr65Gag synthesis. A pol RNA stem-loop resembling the CTE promoted Pr65Gag synthesis. Over-expression of NXF1 and NXT, host factors that bind to the MPMV CTE, synergized with pol to promote gammaretroviral gag RNA loading onto polysomes and to increase Pr65Gag synthesis. Conversely, Gag polyprotein synthesis was decreased by NXF1 knockdown. Finally, overexpression of SRp20, a shuttling protein that binds to NXF1 and promotes NXF1 binding to RNA, also increased gag RNA loading onto polysomes and increased Pr65Gag synthesis.
These experiments demonstrate that gammaretroviral pol sequences act in cis to recruit NXF1 and SRp20 to promote polysome loading of gag RNA and, thereby license the synthesis of Pr65Gag from unspliced mRNA.
PMCID: PMC4174252  PMID: 25212909
22.  Dysfunction of Bovine Endogenous Retrovirus K2 Envelope Glycoprotein Is Related to Unsuccessful Intracellular Trafficking 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(12):6896-6905.
Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are the remnants of retroviral infection of ancestral germ cells. Mutations introduced into ERVs halt the production of infectious agents, but their effects on the function of retroviral proteins are not fully understood. Retroviral envelope glycoproteins (Envs) are utilized in membrane fusion during viral entry, and we recently identified intact coding sequences for bovine endogenous retrovirus K1 (BERV-K1) and BERV-K2 Envs. Amino acid sequences of BERV-K1 Env (also called Fematrin-1) and BERV-K2 Env are similar, and both viruses are classified in the genus Betaretrovirus. While Fematrin-1 plays an important role in cell-to-cell fusion in bovine placenta, the BERV-K2 envelope gene is marginally expressed in vivo, and its recombinant Env protein is defective in membrane fusion due to inefficient cleavage of surface (SU) and transmembrane subunits. Here, we conducted chimeric analyses of Fematrin-1 and BERV-K2 Envs and revealed that defective maturation of BERV-K2 Env contributed to failed intracellular trafficking. Fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometric analysis suggested that in contrast to Fematrin-1 Env, BERV-K2 Env could not be transported from the endoplasmic reticulum to the trans-Golgi network, where cellular proteases required for processing retroviral Envs are localized. We also identified that one of the responsive regions of this phenomenon resided within a 65-amino-acid region of BERV-K2 SU. This is the first report to identify that retroviral Env SU is involved in the regulation of intracellular trafficking, and it may help to elucidate the maturation process of Fematrin-1 and other related Envs.
IMPORTANCE Retroviruses utilize envelope glycoproteins (Envs) to enter host target cells. Mature retroviral Env is a heterodimer, which consists of surface (SU) and transmembrane (TM) subunits that are generated by the cleavage of an Env precursor protein in the trans-Golgi network. SU and TM mediate the recognition of the entry receptor and virus-host membrane fusion, respectively. However, unexplained issues remain for the maturation process of retroviral Env. We previously reported that bovine endogenous retrovirus K2 (BERV-K2) Env lost fusogenicity due to a defect in the cleavage of SU and TM. In this study, we identified that mutations residing in BERV-K2 SU disturbed intracellular trafficking of BERV-K2 Env and resulted its inefficient cleavage. Because SU is not known to play an important role in this process, our study may provide novel insights into the maturation mechanism of retroviral Envs.
PMCID: PMC4054351  PMID: 24696495
23.  Analysis of Prototype Foamy Virus particle-host cell interaction with autofluorescent retroviral particles 
Retrovirology  2010;7:45.
The foamy virus (FV) replication cycle displays several unique features, which set them apart from orthoretroviruses. First, like other B/D type orthoretroviruses, FV capsids preassemble at the centrosome, but more similar to hepadnaviruses, FV budding is strictly dependent on cognate viral glycoprotein coexpression. Second, the unusually broad host range of FV is thought to be due to use of a very common entry receptor present on host cell plasma membranes, because all cell lines tested in vitro so far are permissive.
In order to take advantage of modern fluorescent microscopy techniques to study FV replication, we have created FV Gag proteins bearing a variety of protein tags and evaluated these for their ability to support various steps of FV replication. Addition of even small N-terminal HA-tags to FV Gag severely impaired FV particle release. For example, release was completely abrogated by an N-terminal autofluorescent protein (AFP) fusion, despite apparently normal intracellular capsid assembly. In contrast, C-terminal Gag-tags had only minor effects on particle assembly, egress and particle morphogenesis. The infectivity of C-terminal capsid-tagged FV vector particles was reduced up to 100-fold in comparison to wild type; however, infectivity was rescued by coexpression of wild type Gag and assembly of mixed particles. Specific dose-dependent binding of fluorescent FV particles to target cells was demonstrated in an Env-dependent manner, but not binding to target cell-extracted- or synthetic- lipids. Screening of target cells of various origins resulted in the identification of two cell lines, a human erythroid precursor- and a zebrafish- cell line, resistant to FV Env-mediated FV- and HIV-vector transduction.
We have established functional, autofluorescent foamy viral particles as a valuable new tool to study FV - host cell interactions using modern fluorescent imaging techniques. Furthermore, we succeeded for the first time in identifying two cell lines resistant to Prototype Foamy Virus Env-mediated gene transfer. Interestingly, both cell lines still displayed FV Env-dependent attachment of fluorescent retroviral particles, implying a post-binding block potentially due to lack of putative FV entry cofactors. These cell lines might ultimately lead to the identification of the currently unknown ubiquitous cellular entry receptor(s) of FVs.
PMCID: PMC2887381  PMID: 20478027
24.  Super-Resolution Microscopy Reveals Specific Recruitment of HIV-1 Envelope Proteins to Viral Assembly Sites Dependent on the Envelope C-Terminal Tail 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(2):e1003198.
The inner structural Gag proteins and the envelope (Env) glycoproteins of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) traffic independently to the plasma membrane, where they assemble the nascent virion. HIV-1 carries a relatively low number of glycoproteins in its membrane, and the mechanism of Env recruitment and virus incorporation is incompletely understood. We employed dual-color super-resolution microscopy visualizing Gag assembly sites and HIV-1 Env proteins in virus-producing and in Env expressing cells. Distinctive HIV-1 Gag assembly sites were readily detected and were associated with Env clusters that always extended beyond the actual Gag assembly site and often showed enrichment at the periphery and surrounding the assembly site. Formation of these Env clusters depended on the presence of other HIV-1 proteins and on the long cytoplasmic tail (CT) of Env. CT deletion, a matrix mutation affecting Env incorporation or Env expression in the absence of other HIV-1 proteins led to much smaller Env clusters, which were not enriched at viral assembly sites. These results show that Env is recruited to HIV-1 assembly sites in a CT-dependent manner, while Env(ΔCT) appears to be randomly incorporated. The observed Env accumulation surrounding Gag assemblies, with a lower density on the actual bud, could facilitate viral spread in vivo. Keeping Env molecules on the nascent virus low may be important for escape from the humoral immune response, while cell-cell contacts mediated by surrounding Env molecules could promote HIV-1 transmission through the virological synapse.
Author Summary
Newly formed HIV-1 particles assemble at the plasma membrane of virus producing cells. The inner structural protein Gag and the envelope glycoprotein Env, which are both essential components of infectious virus particles, traffic to the membrane via different pathways. Attached to the inner side of the membrane, Gag assembles into spherical particles that incorporate Env proteins in their surrounding lipid envelope. The mechanism of Env incorporation is incompletely understood, however. Here, we have exploited recently developed super-resolution fluorescence microscopy techniques that yield a near-molecular spatial resolution to analyze HIV-1 Gag and Env distribution patterns at the surface of virus producing cells. We observed recruitment of Env to the surroundings of Gag assembly sites, dependent on the presence of its cytoplasmic domain. A large proportion of Env was found in the vicinity of the Gag assembly sites rather than directly co-localizing with it. These results support an indirect mechanism of Env recruitment, presumably mediated through virus induced changes in the environment of the nascent Gag assembly. Furthermore, they suggest a role for the Env protein in HIV-1 transmission that goes beyond its well-characterized function as an entry protein on the viral surface.
PMCID: PMC3585150  PMID: 23468635
25.  Preassembled capsids of type D retroviruses contain a signal sufficient for targeting specifically to the plasma membrane. 
Journal of Virology  1990;64(8):3844-3852.
The capsids of Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV), an immunosuppressive type D retrovirus, are preassembled in the infected cell cytoplasm and are then transported to the plasma membrane, where they are enveloped in a virus glycoprotein-containing lipid bilayer. The role of viral glycoprotein in intracellular transport of M-PMV capsids was investigated with a spontaneous mutant (5A) of M-PMV, which we show here to be defective in envelope glycoprotein biosynthesis. DNA sequence analysis of the env gene of mutant 5A reveals a single nucleotide deletion in the middle of the gene, which results in the synthesis of a truncated form of the envelope glycoprotein. Evidence is presented showing that the mutant glycoprotein is not expressed at the cell surface but is retained in the endoplasmic reticulum. Normal levels of gag-pro-pol precursor polyproteins are made and processed in mutant genome-transfected cells, and high levels of noninfectious particles lacking viral glycoprotein are released with normal kinetics into the culture medium. No intracisternal budding of capsids is observed. We conclude that viral glycoprotein is required neither for targeting preassembled capsids of M-PMV to the plasma membrane for final maturation nor for the budding process. Since the presence or absence of M-PMV glycoprotein at the site of budding does not affect the efficiency or kinetics of the targeting process, the preassembled capsid of M-PMV, in contrast to those of intracisternal type A particles, appears to have an intrinsic signal for intracellular transport to the plasma membrane.
PMCID: PMC249680  PMID: 2370682

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