Site-specific proteolysis is an important regulatory mechanism in basic cellular and viral processes. Using the protease of the HIV as a model, a genetic system has been developed for the isolation and characterization of site-specific proteases. The system utilizes the well defined bacteriophage λ regulatory circuit where the viral repressor, cI, is specifically cleaved to initiate the lysogenic-to-lytic switch. The model system is rapid, highly specific, and demonstrates the ability to isolate and characterize enzymes of limited expression or activity. In addition, the system has a significant potential for the selection of clinically relevant mutant enzymes and in the development of anti-protease therapeutics
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