Poly(A) site selection in the HIV-1 provirus: inhibition of promoter-proximal polyadenylation by the downstream major splice donor site.
Ashe MP., Griffin P., James W., Proudfoot NJ.
In common with all retroviruses, the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) contains duplicated long terminal repeat (LTR) sequences flanking the proviral genome. These LTRs contain identical poly(A) signals, which are both transcribed into RNA. Therefore, to allow efficient viral expression, a mechanism must exist to either restrict promoter-proximal poly(A) site use or enhance the activity of the promoter-distal poly(A) site. We have examined the use of both poly(A) sites using proviral clones. Mutation of the previously defined upstream activatory sequences of the 3' LTR poly(A) site decreases the efficiency of polyadenylation when placed in competition with an efficient downstream processing signal. However, in the absence of competition, these mutations have no effect on HIV-1 polyadenylation. In addition, the 5' LTR poly(A) site is inactive, whereas a heterologous poly(A) site positioned in its place is utilized efficiently. Furthermore, transcription initiating from the 3' LTR promoter utilizes the 3' LTR poly(A) signal efficiently. Therefore, the main determinant of the differential poly(A) site use appears to be neither proximity to a promoter element in the 5' LTR nor the presence of upstream activating sequences at the 3' LTR. Instead, we show that the major splice donor site that is immediately downstream of the 5' LTR inhibits cleavage and polyadenylation at the promoter-proximal site. The fact that this poly(A) site is active in a proviral clone when the major splice donor site is mutated suggests that the selective use of poly(A) signals in HIV-1 is mediated by a direct inhibition of the HIV-1 poly(A) site by downstream splicing events or factors involved in splicing.