I-motifs are non-canonical nucleic acids structures characterized by intercalated H-bonds between hemi-protonated cytosines. Evidence on the involvement of i-motif structures in the regulation of cellular processes in human cells has been consistently growing in the recent years. However, i-motifs within non-human genomes have never been investigated. Here, we report the characterization of i-motifs within the long terminal repeat (LTR) promoter of the HIV-1 proviral genome. Biophysical and biochemical analysis revealed formation of a predominant i-motif with an unprecedented loop composition. One-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance investigation demonstrated formation of three G-C H-bonds in the long loop, which likely improve the structure overall stability. Pull-down experiments combined with mass spectrometry and protein crosslinking analysis showed that the LTR i-motif is recognized by the cellular protein hnRNP K, which induced folding at physiological conditions. In addition, hnRNP K silencing resulted in an increased LTR promoter activity, confirming the ability of the protein to stabilize the i-motif-forming sequence, which in turn regulates the LTR-mediated HIV-1 transcription. These findings provide new insights into the complexity of the HIV-1 virus and lay the basis for innovative antiviral drug design, based on the possibility to selectively recognize and target the HIV-1 LTR i-motif.

A dynamic i-motif with a duplex stem-loop in the long terminal repeat promoter of the HIV-1 proviral genome modulates viral transcription

Ruggiero, Emanuela;Lago, Sara;Nadai, Matteo;Frasson, Ilaria;Richter, Sara N
2019

Abstract

I-motifs are non-canonical nucleic acids structures characterized by intercalated H-bonds between hemi-protonated cytosines. Evidence on the involvement of i-motif structures in the regulation of cellular processes in human cells has been consistently growing in the recent years. However, i-motifs within non-human genomes have never been investigated. Here, we report the characterization of i-motifs within the long terminal repeat (LTR) promoter of the HIV-1 proviral genome. Biophysical and biochemical analysis revealed formation of a predominant i-motif with an unprecedented loop composition. One-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance investigation demonstrated formation of three G-C H-bonds in the long loop, which likely improve the structure overall stability. Pull-down experiments combined with mass spectrometry and protein crosslinking analysis showed that the LTR i-motif is recognized by the cellular protein hnRNP K, which induced folding at physiological conditions. In addition, hnRNP K silencing resulted in an increased LTR promoter activity, confirming the ability of the protein to stabilize the i-motif-forming sequence, which in turn regulates the LTR-mediated HIV-1 transcription. These findings provide new insights into the complexity of the HIV-1 virus and lay the basis for innovative antiviral drug design, based on the possibility to selectively recognize and target the HIV-1 LTR i-motif.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11577/3315939
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