2009-10-07Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1128/JVI.01368-09
Reconstitution of the Ancestral Glycoprotein of Human Endogenous Retrovirus K and Modulation of Its Functional Activity by Truncation of the Cytoplasmic Domain
Endogenous retroviruses present in the human genome provide a rich record of ancient infections. All presently recognized elements, including the youngest and most intact proviruses of the human endogenous retrovirus K(HML-2) [HERV-K(HML-2)] family, have suffered postinsertional mutations during their time of chromosomal residence, and genes encoding the envelope glycoprotein (Env) have not been spared these mutations. In this study, we have, for the first time, reconstituted an authentic Env of a HERV-K(HML-2) provirus by back mutation of putative postinsertional amino acid changes of the protein encoded by HERV-K113. Aided by codon-optimized expression, we demonstrate that the reconstituted Env regained its ability to be incorporated into retroviral particles and to mediate entry. The original ancient HERV-K113 Env was synthesized as a moderately glycosylated gp95 precursor protein cleaved into surface and transmembrane (TM) subunits. Of the nine N-linked oligosaccharides, four are part of the TM subunit, contributing 15 kDa to its apparent molecular mass of 41 kDa. The carbohydrates, as well as the cytoplasmic tail, are critical for efficient intracellular trafficking, processing, stability, and particle incorporation. Whereas deletions of the carboxy-terminal 6 residues completely abrogated cleavage and virion association, more extensive truncations slightly enhanced incorporation but dramatically increased the ability to mediate entry of pseudotyped lentiviruses. Although the first HERV-K(HML-2) elements infected human ancestors about 30 million years ago, our findings indicate that their glycoproteins are in most respects remarkably similar to those of classical contemporary retroviruses and can still mediate efficient entry into mammalian cells.
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