A new study says that the process by which a retrovirus, like HIV, reproduces and assembles new viruses is different than previously thought.
Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine studied a chicken virus called Rous sarcoma virus that causes cancer in chickens and is similar to HIV.
The start of the replication process is the production by the retrovirus of a protein called Gag.
Prior to this study, it was thought the building process happened outside the nucleus in the cyctoplasm- the material that fills the cell-and then Gag protein was sent to the plasma membrane- the outer boundary of the cell.
However, research revealed that Rous sarcoma virus takes a detour through the cell nucleus before going to the cell membrane.
The Gag protein binds to the viral RNA inside the nucleus, causing alteration in the structure of the protein.
"If we interfere with the first step, the virus will never be released from the cell. Cells are complex, so we use the key elements in a test tube to figure out how Gag and the RNA interact," said Leslie Parent, M.D., Ph.D., professor of infectious diseases, department of medicine.