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Role of HIV-1 Gag protein multimerization in the generation of nanodomains in lipid membranes

Abstract : Gag polyprotein of HIV-1 is made of four main domains Matrix (MA), Capsid (CA), Nucleocapsid (NC), and P6 and is the prime orchestrator of virus assembly that occurs during the late phase of replication. It is well known that Gag interacts with host cell lipids and self-assemble along the inner-leaflet of the plasma membrane in order to generate virus like particles (VLPs). Budding of these VLPs out of the living cell is described to be ESCRT dependent. Structural, functional and simulation based studies has shown that Gag membrane binding is mediated by a bipartite interaction. One specific electrostatic interaction, between the highly basic region (HBR) of its MA domain and the host cell acidic lipid phosphatidyl inositol bisphophate (PI(4,5)P2), plus a hydrophobic interaction through Gag’s myristate insertion in the plasma membrane. It is still an opened question whether Gag would specifically recognize pre-existing lipid domains such as rafts to optimize its multimerization or, on the contrary, would reorganize lipids during its multimerization. During my Ph.D. I explored the second hypothesis using purified myr(-) Gag protein and model membranes containing fluorescently labelled PI(4,5)P2.Bonding experiments have shown strong affinities of these purified proteins towards PI(4,5)P2 containing lipid bilayers. Using PI(4,5)P2 fluorescence self-quenching properties, I found that multimerization Gag generates PI(4,5)P2/Cholesterol enriched nanoclusters. On the opposite, sphingomyelin was excluded from these nanoclusters. In addition to this, using a fluorescently labelled myr(-) Gag, I have observed its preferable partitioning into lipid disordered (Ld) phases of giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs). Further, possibility of whether HIV-1 Gag alone, as a minimal system, can induce the formation of vesicles on PI(4,5)P2/PS containing supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) & GUVs was tested. Using quartz crystal microbalance (QCM-D) and fluorescence microscopy techniques, I monitored the self-assembly of HIV-1 Gag with time and found that Gag was sufficient to generate membrane curvature and vesicle release. Moreover, using mutants of this protein, I found that having MA and CA domain is enough for Gag to produce vesicle like structures. Taken together, these results suggest that binding and multimerization of Gag protein does not occur in pre-existing lipid domains (such as “rafts”) but this multimerization is more likely to induce PI(4,5)P2/Cholesterol nanoclusters. This nanophase separation could locally play a role in the membrane curvature needed for the budding of the virus.
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Naresh Yandrapalli. Role of HIV-1 Gag protein multimerization in the generation of nanodomains in lipid membranes. Human health and pathology. Université Montpellier, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016MONTT097⟩. ⟨tel-01561195⟩

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