Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Virus (CAEV) is a lentivirus closely related to visna virus of sheep and more distantly related to the human lentivirus HIV-1. The genomes of lentiviruses contain additional genes that regulate the lentivirus gene expression; one of these is Rev, a protein that regulates the expression of viral proteins via post-transcriptional mechanisms. A cDNA clone was isolated from CAEV infected cells and shown to encode the 18-kDa Rev protein of CAEV. Antibodies against CAEV Rev (Rev-C) demonstrated that the CAEV Ray protein accumulated in the nucleus and in particular in the nucleolus of transiently transfected cells. Mutation of a basic region in the CAEV Rev protein resulted in loss of nucleolar localization. A highly structured RNA element has been identified in the env gene of CAEV (nt 7850-8150); its structure and location suggested that it was analogous to the Ray-responsive element (RRE) of HIV-1 and visna virus. A 300-bp fragment (nt 7850-8150) spanning this region was substituted for the HIV-1 RRE in an HIV-1 Gag expression vector. Expression of the Gag protein was dramatically increased when Rev-C was added in trans, indicating that this fragment contained the cis-acting CAEV Rev Responsive Element. Cross-activation by the Rev/Rex proteins of other lentiviruses and members of the HTLV-I family indicated that this RRE could interact with Rev or Rex proteins of other viruses. This suggests that the highly divergent lentiviruses share similar mechanisms and cofactors regulating post-transcriptional viral gene expression. The Rev/RRE mechanism is thus the most conserved regulatory mechanism in lentiviruses and other complex retroviruses.
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