To analyze contacts made by Moloney murine leukemia virus (M-MuLV) capsid (CA) proteins in immature and mature virus particles, we have employed a cysteine-specific crosslinking approach that permits the identification of retroviral Gag protein interactions at particular residues. For analysis, single cysteine creation mutations were made in the context of protease- deficient or protease-competent parental constructs. Cysteine creation mutations were chosen near the N- and C-termini of CA and at a site adjacent to the M-MuLV Glu-Ala Fv1 N/B host range determination sequence. Analysis of immature virions showed that PrGag proteins were crosslinked at C-terminal CA residues to form dimers while crosslinking of particle-associated N-terminal and N/B region mutant proteins did not yield dimers, but showed evidence of linking to an unknown 140- to 160-kDa partner. Analysis of mature virions demonstrated that both N- and C-terminal CA residues participated in dimer formation, suggesting that processed CA N- and C-termini are free to establish interprotein associations. Interestingly, N/B region mutant residues in mature virus particles did not crosslink to form dimers, but showed a novel crosslinked band, consistent with an interaction between the N/B tropism determining region and a cellular protein of 45-55 kDa. (C) 2000 Academic Press.
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