Gammaretroviruses tether to mitotic chromatin by directly binding nucleosomal histone proteins
journal contributionposted on 19.05.2021, 11:21 by Madushi Wanaguru, Kate N Bishop
The gammaretroviral gag cleavage product, p12, is essential for replication at both early and late stages of the virus life cycle. During the early stage of infection, the viral core is released into the cytoplasm, the viral RNA genome is reversed transcribed to cDNA and this viral DNA is then integrated into the host cell chromatin to form a provirus. The p12 protein has N- and C-terminal domains (NTD and CTD) that are required for steps leading up to integration, but the molecular details of their functions remain poorly characterised. Using the prototypic gammaretrovirus, murine leukemia virus (MLV) as a model, we recently showed that the NTD of p12 directly binds to and stabilises the capsid (CA) lattice of the viral core. Alterations to the CTD of MLV p12 prevented the viral pre-integration complex (PIC) tethering to host chromatin in mitosis, and this could be partially rescued by addition of a heterologous chromatin binding motif. In this study we demonstrated that the CTD of p12 directly binds to nucleosomal histone proteins, targeting not only p12 but also CA to mitotic chromatin. Additionally, cell-cycle-dependent phosphorylation of p12 appeared to increase the affinity of p12 for chromatin in mitosis relative to interphase. Thus, we have revealed how p12 can link the CA-containing PIC to mitotic chromatin, ready for integration. Importantly, we observed that direct binding to nucleosomes is a conserved feature of p12 orthologs across the gammaretrovirus genus and that the nucleosomal docking site is potentially shared with that of spumaretroviral Gag proteins.