The requirement for infected cells to undergo mitosis as well as the preference to integrate at transcriptional start sites (TSS) and CpG islands are two features of gammaretroviruses that greatly influence their pathogenesis and utility as gene therapy vectors. This application studies a new function of the Gag p12 protein of MuLV associated with tethering the pre-integrative complex (PIC) to the mitotic chromosomes. Through the generation of chimeric p12 proteins, it was found that the tethering property of p12 can influence the integration target-site, in particular away from transcription start sites and CpG islands. This has profound implications with respect to MuLV pathogenesis, where promoter/enhancer insertions are known to cause oncogene activation.
Three specific aims are proposed. Our experimental approach examined the ability of known tethering domains from three different viruses to complement a p12 mutant (PM14), in which viral infection was blocked at nuclear entry or retention. Surprisingly, it was found that the virus selects for weak association to the condensed mitotic chromosomes. Insertion of the prototype foamy virus chromosome-binding domain, which binds to mitotic chromosomes tighter than the WT p12, displayed the decreased bias to TSS and CpG islands. Our working model is that the strength of the p12 tethering will influence the integration site preferences.
One specific aim directly tests this through mapping the integration site utilization of the chimeric p12 viruses using next-generation sequencing. A second specific aim defines and expands the tethering property of the MuLV p12 protein using genetic and biochemical studies. The ability of a panel of novel, alternative tethering domains to complement p12 mutants will be examined. The effects of phosphorylation of p12 are examined. The mechanism utilized by the WT p12 to bind to the mitotic chromosomes is not known. The third specific aim utilizes mass spectrometry to define the stoichiometry of p12 within the PIC as well as to identify the host factors that interact with the WT p12 protein. Understanding the mechanism of PIC tethering for MuLV addresses two hallmark features of gammaretroviruses, namely the requirement for cells to undergo mitosis and its pathogenesis associated with promoter insertions. The overall goal of the research is to extend these proof-of- concept experiments towards the improved design of safer gene delivery vectors.
This research studies a new function of the gammaretroviral p12 protein in tethering to chromosomes. These studies have broad implications for understanding retroviral pathogenesis and provide a potential mechanism to engineer the integration target-site selection of gammaretroviral vectors for greater safety during human gene therapy.