Trans-complementation rescue of cyclophilin A-deficient viruses reveals that the requirement for cyclophilin A in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 replication is independent of its isomerase activity
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) requires the incorporation of cyclophilin A (CypA) for replication. CypA is packaged by binding to the capsid (CA) region of Gag. This interaction is disrupted by cyclosporine (CsA). Preventing CypA incorporation, either by mutations in the binding region of CA or by the presence of CsA, abrogates virus infectivity. Given that CypA possesses an isomerase activity, it has been proposed that CypA acts as an uncoating factor by destabilizing the shell of CA that surrounds the viral genome. However, because the same domain of CypA is responsible for both its isomerase activity and its capacity to be packaged, it has been challenging to determine if isomerase activity is required for HIV-1 replication. To address this issue, we fused CypA to viral protein R (Vpr), creating a Vpr-CypA chimera. Because Vpr is packaged via the p6 region of Gag, this approach bypasses the interaction with CA and allows CypA incorporation even in the presence of CsA. Using this system, we found that Vpr-CypA rescues the infectivity of viruses lacking CypA, either produced in the presence of CsA or mutated in the CypA packaging signal of CA. Furthermore, a Vpr-CypA mutant which has no isomerase activity and no capacity to bind to CA also rescues HIV-1 replication. Thus, this study demonstrates that the isomerase activity of CypA is not required for HIV-1 replication and suggests that the interaction of the catalytic site of CypA with CA serves no other function than to incorporate CypA into viruses.