The HIV-2 viral accessory protein Vpx is related to, but distinct from the Vpr protein of HIV-1. Vpx is packaged into virions and as a component of the viral preintegration complex (PIC) is required for efficient virus replication in non-dividing cells. We have previously reported that the minimal transferable region of Vpx that contained karyophilic properties was aa 65 to 72. Analysis of Vpx sequences from various HIV-2/SIV strains reveals that this region contains highly conserved amino acids, including two basic residues (K68, R70) and three tyrosines (Y66, Y69, Y71). Here, we demonstrate that mutation of the basic or tyrosine residues abolishes PIC nuclear import in arrested cells as assessed by PCR detection of viral integration. Examination of cell-free virus by Western blot indicated that all mutant proteins were incorporated into virions, suggesting that the lack of replication in arrested cells was not due to a loss of Vpx in target cells. Together, these studies map critical residues of the Vpx nuclear localization signal that are required for efficient infection of non-dividing cells.
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