The ability of human immunodeficiency virus types 1 (HIV-1) and 2 (HIV-2) to cross-package each other’s RNA was investigated by cotransfecting helper virus constructs with vectors derived from both viruses from which the gag and pol sequences had been removed. HIV-1 was able to package both HIV-1 and HIV-2 vector RNA. The unspliced HIV-1 vector RNA was packaged preferentially over spliced RNA; however, unspliced and spliced HIV-2 vector RNA were packaged in proportion to their cytoplasmic concentrations. The HIV-2 helper virus was unable to package the HIV-1 vector RNA, indicating a nonreciprocal RNA packaging relationship between these two lentiviruses. Chimeric proviruses based on HIV-2 were constructed to identify the regions of the HIV-1 Gag protein conferring RNA-packaging specificity for the HIV-1 packaging signal. Two chimeric viruses were constructed in which domains within the HIV-2 gag gene were replaced by the corresponding domains in HIV-1, and the ability of the chimeric proviruses to encapsidate an HIV-1-based vector was studied. Wild-type HIV-2 was unable to package the HIV-1-based vector; however, replacement of the HIV-2 nucleocapsid by that of HIV-1 generated a virus with normal protein processing which could package the HIV-1-based vector. The chimeric viruses retained the ability to package HIV-2 genomic RNA, providing further evidence for a lack of reciprocity in RNA-packaging ability between the HIV-1 and HIV-2 nucleocapsid proteins. Inclusion of the p2 domain of HIV-1 Gag in the chimera significantly enhanced packaging
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