The Francis Crick Institute
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Key determinants of target DNA recognition by retroviral intasomes

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-09-09, 14:04 authored by Erik Serrao, Allison Ballandras-Colas, Peter Cherepanov, Goedele N Maertens, Alan N Engelman
BACKGROUND: Retroviral integration favors weakly conserved palindrome sequences at the sites of viral DNA joining and generates a short (4-6 bp) duplication of host DNA flanking the provirus. We previously determined two key parameters that underlie the target DNA preference for prototype foamy virus (PFV) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integration: flexible pyrimidine (Y)/purine (R) dinucleotide steps at the centers of the integration sites, and base contacts with specific integrase residues, such as Ala188 in PFV integrase and Ser119 in HIV-1 integrase. Here we examined the dinucleotide preference profiles of a range of retroviruses and correlated these findings with respect to length of target site duplication (TSD). RESULTS: Integration datasets covering six viral genera and the three lengths of TSD were accessed from the literature or generated in this work. All viruses exhibited significant enrichments of flexible YR and/or selection against rigid RY dinucleotide steps at the centers of integration sites, and the magnitude of this enrichment inversely correlated with TSD length. The DNA sequence environments of in vivo-generated HIV-1 and PFV sites were consistent with integration into nucleosomes, however, the local sequence preferences were largely independent of target DNA chromatinization. Integration sites derived from cells infected with the gammaretrovirus reticuloendotheliosis virus strain A (Rev-A), which yields a 5 bp TSD, revealed the targeting of global chromatin features most similar to those of Moloney murine leukemia virus, which yields a 4 bp duplication. In vitro assays revealed that Rev-A integrase interacts with and is catalytically stimulated by cellular bromodomain containing 4 protein. CONCLUSIONS: Retroviral integrases have likely evolved to bend target DNA to fit scissile phosphodiester bonds into two active sites for integration, and viruses that cut target DNA with a 6 bp stagger may not need to bend DNA as sharply as viruses that cleave with 4 bp or 5 bp staggers. For PFV and HIV-1, the selection of signature bases and central flexibility at sites of integration is largely independent of chromatin structure. Furthermore, global Rev-A integration is likely directed to chromatin features by bromodomain and extraterminal domain proteins.