Whether purified HIV-1 virion cores are capable of reverse transcription or require uncoating to be activated is currently controversial. To address this question we purified cores from a virus culture and tested for the ability to generate authentic reverse transcription products. A dense fraction (approximately 1.28 g/ml) prepared without detergent, possibly derived from disrupted virions, was found to naturally occur as a minor sub-fraction in our preparations. Core-like particles were identified in this active fraction by electron microscopy. We are the first to report the detection of authentic strong-stop, first-strand transfer and full-length minus strand products in this core fraction without requirement for an uncoating activity
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