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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Retrovirus particles emerge from the assembly of two structural protein components, Gag that is translated as a soluble protein in the cytoplasm of the host cells, and Env, a type I transmembrane protein. Because both components are translated in different intracellular compartments, elucidating the mechanisms of retrovirus assembly thus requires the study of their intracellular trafficking.
We used a CD25 (Tac) chimera-based approach to study the trafficking of Moloney murine leukemia virus and Mason-Pfizer monkey virus Env proteins. We found that the cytoplasmic tails (CTs) of both Env conserved two major signals that control a complex intracellular trafficking. A dileucine-based motif controls the sorting of the chimeras from the trans-Golgi network (TGN) toward endosomal compartments. Env proteins then follow a retrograde transport to the TGN due to the action of a tyrosine-based motif. Mutation of either motif induces the mis-localization of the chimeric proteins and both motifs are found to mediate interactions of the viral CTs with clathrin adaptors.
This data reveals the unexpected complexity of the intracellular trafficking of retrovirus Env proteins that cycle between the TGN and endosomes. Given that Gag proteins hijack endosomal host proteins, our work suggests that the endosomal pathway may be used by retroviruses to ensure proper encountering of viral structural Gag and Env proteins in cells, an essential step of virus assembly.
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.
Most retroviruses employ a frameshift mechanism during polyprotein synthesis to balance appropriate ratios of structural proteins and enzymes. To investigate the requirements for individual precursors in retrovirus assembly, we modified the polyprotein repertoire of Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) by mutating the frameshift sites to imitate the polyprotein organization of Rous sarcoma virus (Gag-Pro and Gag-Pro-Pol) or Human immunodeficiency virus (Gag and Gag-Pro-Pol). For the “Rous-like” virus, assembly was impaired with no incorporation of Gag-Pro-Pol into particles and for the “HIV-like” virus an altered morphogenesis was observed. A mutant expressing Gag and Gag-Pro polyproteins and lacking Gag-Pro-Pol assembled intracellular particles at a level similar to the wild-type. Gag-Pro-Pol polyprotein alone neither formed immature particles nor processed the precursor. All the mutants were non-infectious except the “HIV-like”, which retained fractional infectivity.
Ribosomal frameshift; Retrovirus; Assembly; Mason-Pfizer monkey virus; Capsid
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.
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.
The assembly of retroviruses is driven by oligomerization of the Gag polyprotein. We have used cryo-electron tomography together with subtomogram averaging to describe the three-dimensional structure of in vitro-assembled Gag particles from human immunodeficiency virus, Mason-Pfizer monkey virus, and Rous sarcoma virus. These represent three different retroviral genera: the lentiviruses, betaretroviruses and alpharetroviruses. Comparison of the three structures reveals the features of the supramolecular organization of Gag that are conserved between genera and therefore reflect general principles of Gag-Gag interactions and the features that are specific to certain genera. All three Gag proteins assemble to form approximately spherical hexameric lattices with irregular defects. In all three genera, the N-terminal domain of CA is arranged in hexameric rings around large holes. Where the rings meet, 2-fold densities, assigned to the C-terminal domain of CA, extend between adjacent rings, and link together at the 6-fold symmetry axis with a density, which extends toward the center of the particle into the nucleic acid layer. Although this general arrangement is conserved, differences can be seen throughout the CA and spacer peptide regions. These differences can be related to sequence differences among the genera. We conclude that the arrangement of the structural domains of CA is well conserved across genera, whereas the relationship between CA, the spacer peptide region, and the nucleic acid is more specific to each genus.
Budding is the final step of the late phase of retroviral life cycle. It begins with the interaction of Gag precursor with plasma membrane (PM) through its N-terminal domain, the matrix protein (MA). However, single genera of Retroviridae family differ in the way how they interact with PM. While in case of Lentiviruses (e.g., human immunodeficiency virus) the structural polyprotein precursor Gag interacts with cellular membrane prior to the assembly, Betaretroviruses [Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV)] first assemble their virus-like particles (VLPs) in the pericentriolar region of the infected cell and therefore, already assembled particles interact with the membrane. Although both these types of retroviruses use similar mechanism of the interaction of Gag with the membrane, the difference in the site of assembly leads to some differences in the mechanism of the interaction. Here we describe the interaction of M-PMV MA with PM with emphasis on the structural aspects of the interaction with single phospholipids.
Retrovirus; Mason-Pfizer monkey virus; matrix protein; phospholipids; interaction; plasma membrane
We demonstrated previously that the cytosine deaminase APOBEC3G inhibits retrotransposition of two active murine endogenous retroviruses, namely intracisternal A-particles (IAP) and MusD, in an ex vivo assay where retrotransposition was monitored by selection of neo-marked elements. Sequencing of the transposed copies further disclosed extensive editing, resulting in a high load of G-to-A mutations. Here, we asked whether this G-to-A editing was associated with an impact of APOBEC3G on viral cDNA yields. To this end, we used a specially designed quantitative PCR method to selectively measure the copy number of transposed retroelements, in the absence of G418 selection. We show that human APOBEC3G severely reduces the number of MusD and IAP transposed cDNA copies, with no effect on the level of the intermediate RNA transcripts. The magnitude of the decrease closely parallels that observed when transposed copies are assayed by selection of G418-resistant cells. Moreover, sequencing of transposed elements recovered by PCR without prior selection of the cells reveals high-level editing. Using this direct method with a series of cytosine deaminases, we further demonstrate a similar dual effect of African green monkey APOBE3G, human APOBEC3F and murine APOBEC3 on MusD retrotransposition, with a distinct extent and site specificity for each editing activity. Altogether the data demonstrate that cytosine deaminases have a protective effect against endogenous retroviruses both by reducing viral cDNA levels and by introducing mutations in the transposed copies, thus inactivating them for subsequent rounds of retrotransposition. This dual, two-step effect likely participates in the efficient defense of the cell genome against invading endogenous retroelements.
When endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) or other transposable elements (TEs) insert into an intron, the consequence on gene transcription can range from negligible to a complete ablation of normal transcripts. With the advance of sequencing technology, more and more insertionally polymorphic or private TE insertions are being identified in humans and mice, of which some could have a significant impact on host gene expression. Nevertheless, an efficient and low cost approach to prioritize their potential effect on gene transcription has been lacking. By building a computational model based on artificial neural networks (ANN), we demonstrate the feasibility of using machine-learning approaches to predict the likelihood that intronic ERV insertions will have major effects on gene transcription, focusing on the two ERV families, namely Intracisternal A-type Particle (IAP) and Early Transposon (ETn)/MusD elements, which are responsible for the majority of ERV-induced mutations in mice. We trained the ANN model using properties associated with these ERVs known to cause germ-line mutations (positive cases) and properties associated with likely neutral ERVs of the same families (negative cases), and derived a set of prediction plots that can visualize the likelihood of affecting gene transcription by ERV insertions. Our results show a highly reliable prediction power of our model, and offer a potential approach to computationally screen for other types of TE insertions that may affect gene transcription or even cause disease.
Transposable elements are often the targets of repressive epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation that, in theory, have the potential to spread toward nearby genes and induce epigenetic silencing. To better understand the role of DNA methylation in the relationship between transposable elements and genes, we assessed the methylation state of mouse endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) located near genes.
We found that ERVs of the ETn/MusD family show decreased DNA methylation when near transcription start sites in tissues where the nearby gene is expressed. ERVs belonging to the IAP family, however, are generally heavily methylated, regardless of the genomic environment and the tissue studied. Furthermore, we found full-length ETn and IAP copies that display differential DNA methylation between their two long terminal repeats (LTRs), suggesting that the environment surrounding gene promoters can prevent methylation of the nearby LTR. Spreading from methylated ERV copies to nearby genes was rarely observed, with the regions between the ERVs and genes apparently acting as a boundary, enriched in H3K4me3 and CTCF, which possibly protects the unmethylated gene promoter. Furthermore, the flanking regions of unmethylated ERV copies harbor H3K4me3, consistent with spreading of euchromatin from the host gene toward ERV insertions.
We have shown that spreading of DNA methylation from ERV copies toward active gene promoters is rare. We provide evidence that genes can be protected from ERV-induced heterochromatin spreading by either blocking the invasion of repressive marks or by spreading euchromatin toward the ERV copy.
DNA methylation; epigenetics; evolution; heterochromatin spreading; mouse endogenous retroviruses; transposable element
It was previously shown that a 240-nucleotide (nt) RNA element (cis-acting transactivation element [CTE]) located between the env gene and the 3' long terminal repeat of simian retrovirus type 1 (SRV-1) can functionally replace posttranscriptional activation directed by Rev and the Rev-responsive element (RRE) when inserted into a Rev- and RRE-deficient molecular clone of human immunodeficiency virus type 1, resulting in efficient virus replication. Here, we analyze the molecular and structural requirements for function of this RNA element. Deletion mutagenesis demonstrated that the core element spans 173 nt. SRV-2 and Mason-Pfizer monkey virus have highly homologous elements, which function similarly when inserted into the Rev/RRE-deficient human immunodeficiency virus type 1. Computer prediction indicated that the core CTEs of all three viruses have similar extensive secondary structures. Mutagenesis of the SRV-1 CTE revealed that both sequence and secondary structure are essential for function. Nuclease probing of the SRV-1 CTE further supported the genetic analysis and confirmed the predicted structural features of the RNA element. Sequence analysis of the 240-nt SRV-1 CTE, after continuous long-term propagation of the Rev-independent viruses, revealed that the genetically defined core element remained unchanged, while regions outside the core CTE underwent deletions or duplications. These data further support our in vitro mutagenesis data and demonstrate the importance of the sequence and structure of the SRV-1 CTE for appropriate function.
Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV), like some other betaretroviruses, encodes a G-patch domain (GPD). This glycine-rich domain, which has been predicted to be an RNA binding module, is invariably localized at the 3′ end of the pro gene upstream of the pro-pol ribosomal frameshift sequence of genomic RNAs of betaretroviruses. Following two ribosomal frameshift events and the translation of viral mRNA, the GPD is present in both Gag-Pro and Gag-Pro-Pol polyproteins. During the maturation of the Gag-Pro polyprotein, the GPD transiently remains a C-terminal part of the protease (PR), from which it is then detached by PR itself. The destiny of the Gag-Pro-Pol-encoded GPD remains to be determined. The function of the GPD in the retroviral life cycle is unknown. To elucidate the role of the GPD in the M-PMV replication cycle, alanine-scanning mutational analysis of its most highly conserved residues was performed. A series of individual mutations as well as the deletion of the entire GPD had no effect on M-PMV assembly, polyprotein processing, and RNA incorporation. However, a reduction of the reverse transcriptase (RT) activity, resulting in a drop in M-PMV infectivity, was determined for all GPD mutants. Immunoprecipitation experiments suggested that the GPD is a part of RT and participates in its function. These data indicate that the M-PMV GPD functions as a part of reverse transcriptase rather than protease.
TED (transposable element D) is an env-containing member of the gypsy family of retrotransposons that represents a possible retrovirus of invertebrates. This lepidopteran (moth) retroelement contains gag and pol genes that encode proteins capable of forming viruslike particles (VLP) with reverse transcriptase. Since VLP are likely intermediates in TED transposition, we investigated the roles of gag and pol in TED capsid assembly and maturation. By using constructed baculovirus vectors and TED Gag-specific antiserum, we show that the principal translation product of gag (Pr55gag) is cleaved to produce a single VLP structural protein, p37gag. Replacement of Asp436 within the retrovirus-like active site of the pol-encoded protease (PR) abolished Pr55gag cleavage and demonstrated the requirement for PR in capsid processing. As shown by expression of an in-frame fusion of TED gag and pol, PR is derived from the Gag-Pol polyprotein Pr195gag-pol. The PR cleavage site within Pr55gag was mapped to a position near the junction of a basic, nucleocapsid-like domain and a C-terminal acidic domain. Once released by cleavage, the C-terminal fragment was not detected. This acidic fragment was dispensable for VLP assembly, as demonstrated by the formation of VLP by C-terminal Pr55gag truncation proteins and replacement of the acidic domain with a heterologous protein. In contrast, C-terminal deletions that extended into the adjacent nucleocapsid-like domain of Pr55gag abolished VLP recovery and demonstrated that this central region contributes to VLP assembly or stability, or both. Collectively, these data suggest that the single TED protein p37gag provides both capsid and nucleocapsid functions. TED may therefore use a simple processing strategy for VLP assembly and genome packaging.
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.
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.
Virus assembly represents one of the last steps in the retrovirus life cycle. During this process, Gag polyproteins assemble at specific sites within the cell to form viral capsids and induce membrane extrusion (viral budding) either as assembly progresses (type C virus) or following formation of a complete capsid (type B and type D viruses). Finally, the membrane must undergo a fusion event to pinch off the particle in order to release a complete enveloped virion. Structural elements within the MA region of the Gag polyprotein define the route taken to the plasma membrane and direct the process of virus budding. Results presented here suggest that a distinct region of Gag is necessary for virus release. The pp24 and pp16 proteins of the type D retrovirus Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) are phosphoproteins that are encoded in the gag gene of the virus. The pp16 protein is a C-terminally located cleavage product of pp24 and contains a proline-rich motif (PPPY) that is conserved among the Gag proteins of a wide variety of retroviruses. By performing a functional analysis of this coding region with deletion mutants, we have shown that the pp16 protein is dispensable for capsid assembly but essential for virion release. Moreover, additional experiments indicated that the virus release function of pp16 was abolished by the deletion of only the PPPY motif and could be restored when this motif alone was reinserted into a Gag polyprotein lacking the entire pp16 domain. Single-amino-acid substitutions for any of the residues within this motif confer a similar virion release-defective phenotype. It is unlikely that the function of the proline-rich motif is simply to inhibit premature activation of protease, since the PPPY deletion blocked virion release in the context of a protease-defective provirus. These results demonstrate that in type D retroviruses a PPPY motif plays a key role in a late stage of virus budding that is independent of and occurs prior to virion maturation.
The Ty3 retrotransposon assembles into 50-nm virus-like particles that occur in large intracellular clusters in the case of wild-type (wt) Ty3. Within these particles, maturation of the Gag3 and Gag3-Pol3 polyproteins by Ty3 protease produces the structural proteins capsid (CA), spacer, and nucleocapsid. Secondary and tertiary structure predictions showed that, like retroviral CA, Ty3 CA contains a large amount of helical structure arranged in amino-terminal and carboxyl-terminal bundles. Twenty-six mutants in which alanines were substituted for native residues were used to study CA subdomain functions. Transposition was measured, and particle morphogenesis and localization were characterized by analysis of protein processing, cDNA production, genomic RNA protection, and sedimentation and by fluorescence and electron microscopy. These measures defined five groups of mutants. Proteins from each group could be sedimented in a large complex. Mutations in the amino-terminal domain reduced the formation of fluorescent Ty3 protein foci. In at least one major homology region mutant, Ty3 protein concentrated in foci but no wt clusters of particles were observed. One mutation in the carboxyl-terminal domain shifted assembly from spherical particles to long filaments. Two mutants formed foci separate from P bodies, the proposed sites of assembly, and formed defective particles. P-body association was therefore found to be not necessary for assembly but correlated with the production of functional particles. One mutation in the amino terminus blocked transposition after cDNA synthesis. Our data suggest that Ty3 proteins are concentrated first, assembly associated with P bodies occurs, and particle morphogenesis concludes with a post-reverse transcription, CA-dependent step. Particle formation was generally resistant to localized substitutions, possibly indicating that multiple domains are involved.
Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV), the prototypical type D retrovirus, assembles immature capsids within the cytoplasm of the cell prior to plasma membrane interaction. Several mutants of M-PMV Gag have been described which display altered transport, assembly, or both. In this report, we describe the use of an in vitro synthesis and assembly system to distinguish between defects in intracellular transport and the process of assembly itself for two previously described gag gene mutants. Matrix domain mutant R55W converts the type D morphogenesis of M-PMV particles into type C and has been hypothesized to alter the transport of Gag, redirecting it to the plasma membrane where assembly subsequently occurs. We show here that R55W can assemble in both the in vitro translation-assembly system and within inclusion bodies in bacteria and thus has retained the capacity to assemble in the cytoplasm. This supports the concept that R55 is located within a domain responsible for the transport of Gag to an intracellular site for assembly. In contrast, deletions within the p12 domain of M-PMV Gag had previously been shown to affect the efficiency of particle formation such that under low-level expression conditions, Gag would fail to assemble. We demonstrate here that the efficiency of assembly in the in vitro system mirrors that seen in cells under expression conditions similar to that of an infection. These results argue that the p12 domain of this D-type retrovirus plays a critical role in the membrane-independent assembly of immature capsids.
The Tf1 element of Schizosaccharomyces pombe is a long terminal repeat-containing retrotransposon that encodes functional protease, reverse transcriptase, and integrase proteins. Although these proteins are known to be necessary for protein processing, reverse transcription, and integration, respectively, the function of the protein thought to be Gag has not been determined. We present here the first electron microscopy of Tf1 particles. We tested whether the putative Gag of Tf1 was required for particle formation, packaging of RNA, and reverse transcription. We generated deletions of 10 amino acids in each of the four hydrophilic domains of the protein and found that all four mutations reduced transposition activity. The N-terminal deletion removed a nuclear localization signal and inhibited nuclear import of the transposon. The two mutations in the center of Gag destabilized the protein and resulted in no virus-like particles. The C-terminal deletion caused a defect in RNA packaging and, as a result, low levels of cDNA. The electron microscopy of cells expressing a truncated Tf1 showed that Gag alone was sufficient for the formation of virus-like particles. Taken together, these results indicate that Tf1 encodes a Gag protein that is a functional equivalent of the Gag proteins of retroviruses.