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NIAID-Supported Research Unveils Characteristics of Key Steps in HIV Life Cycle

Posted on October 20, 2020

Source: NIH

NIAID-Supported Research Unveils Characteristics of Key Steps in HIV Life Cycle

"New NIAID-funded research answers longstanding questions about key steps in HIV replication. The scientists who conducted the research are the first to create an environment in a test tube where they could watch the unfolding of early events in the HIV life cycle that typically take place deep inside a cell, obstructed from view. Their experiments, published in the journal Science, mark the first time scientists have made these events happen outside of a cell."

"The research was led by Wesley I. Sundquist, Ph.D., distinguished professor of biochemistry at University of Utah Health, and Owen Pornillos, Ph.D., formerly a trainee of Dr. Sundquist’s and now an associate professor at the University of Virginia."

"It has long been known that after HIV enters a cell, its genetic material―single-stranded RNA―gets converted into double-stranded DNA by an enzyme called reverse transcriptase and is then integrated into the cell’s DNA by an enzyme called integrase. But the conditions under which reverse transcription and integration occur have been under debate for many years."

"Central to that debate has been the role of a cone-shaped capsule nestled inside the spherical membrane that encloses the virus. This capsule, called the HIV capsid, contains viral RNA, reverse transcriptase, integrase and other molecules the virus needs to replicate inside a cell. In recent years, scientists have questioned whether reverse transcription can take place inside the capsid and whether an intact capsid might even promote this process."


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