The interaction of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) Gag protein with the plasma membrane of a cell is a critical event in the assembly of HIV particles. The matrix protein region (MA) of HIV type 1 (HIV-1) Pr55(Gag) has previously been demonstrated to confer membrane-binding properties on the precursor polyprotein. Both the myristic acid moiety and additional determinants within MA are essential for plasma membrane binding and subsequent particle formation. In this study, we demonstrated the myristylation-dependent membrane interaction of MA in an in vivo membrane- binding assay. When expressed within mammalian cells, MA was found both in association with cellular membranes and in a membrane-free form. In contrast, the intact precursor Pr55(Gag) molecule analyzed in an identical manner was found almost exclusively bound to membranes. Both membrane-bound and membrane-free forms of MA were myristylated and phosphorylated. Differential membrane binding was not due to the formation of multimers, as dimeric and trimeric forms of MA were also found in both membrane-bound and membrane- free fractions. To define the requirements for membrane binding of MA, we analyzed the membrane binding of a series of MA deletion mutants. Surprisingly, deletions within alpha-helical regions forming the globular head of MA led to a dramatic increase in overall membrane binding. The stability of the MA-membrane interaction was not affected by these deletions, and no deletion eliminated membrane binding of the molecule. These results establish that myristic acid is a primary determinant of the stability of the Gag protein-membrane interaction and provide support for the hypothesis that a significant proportion of HIV-1 MA molecules may adopt a conformation in which myristic acid is hidden and unavailable for membrane interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6582-6592
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1997


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