RNA 2008 Dec 30;14(12):2597-608. Epub 2008 Oct 30.
Department of Medicine, Addenbrooke's Hospital, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, United Kingdom.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a lentivirus that infects cats and is related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Although it is a common worldwide infection, and has potential uses as a human gene therapy vector and as a nonprimate model for HIV infection, little detail is known of the viral life cycle. Previous experiments have shown that its packaging signal includes two or more regions within the first 511 nucleotides of the genomic RNA. We have undertaken a secondary structural analysis of this RNA by minimal free-energy structural prediction, biochemical mapping, and phylogenetic analysis, and show that it contains five conserved stem-loops and a conserved long-range interaction between heptanucleotide sequences 5'-CCCUGUC-3' in R/U5 and 5'-GACAGGG-3' in gag. This long-range interaction is similar to that seen in primate lentiviruses where it is thought to be functionally important. Along with strains that infect domestic cats, this heptanucleotide interaction can also occur in species-specific FIV strains that infect pumas, lions, and Pallas' cats where the heptanucleotide sequences involved vary. We have analyzed spliced and genomic FIV RNAs and see little structural change or sequence conservation within single-stranded regions of the 5' UTR that are important for viral packaging, suggesting that FIV may employ a cotranslational packaging mechanism.