The capsid (CA) domain of the HIV-1 precursor Gag (PrGag) protein plays multiple roles in HIV-1 replication, and is central to the assembly of immature virions, and mature virus cores. CA proteins themselves are composed of N-terminal domains (NTDs) and C-terminal domains (CTDs). We have investigated the interactions of CA with anti-CA nanobodies, which derive from the antigen recognition regions of camelid heavy chain-only antibodies. The one CA NTD-specific and two CTD-specific nanobodies we analyzed proved sensitive and specific HIV-1 CA detection reagents in immunoassays. When co-expressed with HIV-1 Gag proteins in cells, the NTD-specific nanobody was efficiently assembled into virions and did not perturb virus assembly. In contrast, the two CTD-specific nanobodies reduced PrGag processing, virus release and HIV-1 infectivity. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of Gag-targeted nanobody inhibition of HIV-1.
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