HIV-1 Vpr is a dynamic protein that primarily localizes in the nucleus, but a significant fraction is concentrated at the nuclear envelope (NE), supporting an interaction between Vpr and components of the nuclear pore complex, including the nucleoporin hCG1. In the present study, we have explored the contribution of Vpr accumulation at the NE to the Vpr functions, including G2-arrest and pro-apoptotic activities, and virus replication in primary macrophages.
In order to define the functional role of Vpr localization at the NE, we have characterized a set of single-point Vpr mutants, and selected two new mutants with substitutions within the first α-helix of the protein, Vpr-L23F and Vpr-K27M, that failed to associate with hCG1, but were still able to interact with other known relevant host partners of Vpr. In mammalian cells, these mutants failed to localize at the NE resulting in a diffuse nucleocytoplasmic distribution both in HeLa cells and in primary human monocyte-derived macrophages. Other mutants with substitutions in the first α-helix (Vpr-A30L and Vpr-F34I) were similarly distributed between the nucleus and cytoplasm, demonstrating that this helix contains the determinants required for localization of Vpr at the NE. All these mutations also impaired the Vpr-mediated G2-arrest of the cell cycle and the subsequent cell death induction, indicating a functional link between these activities and the Vpr accumulation at the NE. However, this localization is not sufficient, since mutations within the C-terminal basic region of Vpr (Vpr-R80A and Vpr-R90K), disrupted the G2-arrest and apoptotic activities without altering NE localization. Finally, the replication of the Vpr-L23F and Vpr-K27M hCG1-binding deficient mutant viruses was also affected in primary macrophages from some but not all donors.
These results indicate that the targeting of Vpr to the nuclear pore complex may constitute an early step toward Vpr-induced G2-arrest and subsequent apoptosis; they also suggest that Vpr targeting to the nuclear pore complex is not absolutely required, but can improve HIV-1 replication in macrophages.
Source: Jacquot, G., Le Rouzic, E., David, A., Mazzolini, J., Bouchet, J., Bouaziz, S., … Benichou, S. (2007). Localization of HIV-1 Vpr to the nuclear envelope: impact on Vpr functions and virus replication in macrophages. Retrovirology, 4, 84. https://doi.org/10.1186/1742-4690-4-84 (full article)