Structure and expression of tat-, rev-, and nef-specific transcripts of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 in infected lymphocytes and macrophages.


Primary RNA transcripts from the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) are processed into mature mRNA by a complex series of splicing events. Viral structural proteins and reverse transcriptase are translated from unspliced or singly spliced transcripts. Proteins which control virus replication, including tat, rev, and nef, are translated from transcripts which are the product of multiple splicing. We have analyzed the composition and relative abundance of the latter transcripts in long-term infected cell lines and in acutely infected peripheral blood cells by amplification with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) followed by Southern blot, molecular cloning, and DNA sequence analyses. In H9 cells chronically infected with the HIV-1 strain HTLV-IIIB, the predominant of the three kinds of transcripts is those coding for nef. Transcripts with coding potential for rev constituted an intermediate fraction of those analyzed, while those for tat accounted for only a small minority. A similar pattern was observed with Southern blots of PCR-amplified transcripts from peripheral blood lymphocytes acutely infected with HTLV-IIIB. The same general pattern was also observed with PCR-amplified transcripts from peripheral blood monocyte-macrophages infected with an HIV-1 strain (BA-L) able to grow to high titers in macrophages. In these cells, however, the apparent major form of nef transcript contained only the first and third exons of the multiply spliced transcripts and appeared to be generated by either a single or a triple splicing mechanism. As with lymphocytes, tat-specific mRNAs were by far the least abundant. It thus appears that different cell types infected with different strains of HIV-1 maintain a similar balance of expression in which transcripts for nef vastly predominate over those for tat and that those for rev are intermediate in abundance.

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