Studies on HIV-1 nucleocapsid chaperone role in protein/nucleic acid interactions by single molecule spectroscopy approaches
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HIV-NC is a multifunctional protein which plays an important role in almost every step of the retroviral life cycle. NC is essential in catalyzing stand transfers of HIV-1 reverse transcription, including the annealing of the transactivation response element (TAR) of the viral genome to the complementary TAR DNA in minus-strong-stop DNA. In this dissertation, the research starts with focus on elucidating the reaction mechanism of NC-facilitated TAR DNA/RNA annealing using single molecule spectroscopy (SMS) approaches. The results indicate that nucleation of TAR DNA/RNA annealing occurs in an encounter complex form in which one or two DNA/RNA strands in the partially open “Y” form associated with multiple NC molecules. This encounter complex leads to annealing through the 3’/5’ termini, namely “zipper” pathway and the annealing through the hairpin loop region, namely “kissing” pathway. By employing target oligonucleotides for specific TAR regions, we directly probed kinetic reversibility and the chaperone role of NC. Concentration-dependence of NC chaperoned melting and annealing of TAR hairpins was investigated and the results further support the proposed reaction mechanism. Additionally, we used a single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) as model to study ssDNA conformational change upon NC binding. Here we present observation of NC binding to d(TG)n and d(T)n, including NC effect on flexibility and conformation of these oligonucleotides chains. Our results reveal that the rigidity of ssDNA chain is dramatically reduced through interaction with NC. Meanwhile the results of NC dissociation experiments indicate the interaction of NC/ssDNA is complex and heterogeneous. Finally, we used SMS in vitro to systematically compare and contrast the RNA/protein interactions for the zinc-finger-binding-motif protein (NC) and the arginine-rich-binding-motif (ARM) protein (Tat) encoded by HIV-1. Tat and NC use different RNA binding motifs to recognize and interact with RNA hairpin, giving rise to very different changes in the RNA secondary structure upon protein binding. Competition experiments show that the presence of Tat can effectively inhibit the NC binding-induced local melting of TAR RNA hairpins. These results indicate that Tat specifically binds and stabilizes the TAR RNA hairpin structure, which likely inhibits the local melting of the hairpin induced by NC.