Purified fusion proteins made up of a retroviral integrase and a sequence-specific DNA-binding protein have been tested in in vitro assays for their ability to direct integration into specific target sites. To determine whether these fusion proteins can be incorporated into human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and are functional to mediate integration, we used an in trans approach to deliver various integrase-LexA proteins to an integrase-defective virus containing an integrase mutation at aspartate residue 64. Integrase-LexA, integrase-LexA DNA-binding domain, or N- or C-terminally truncated integrase-LexA proteins were fused to the HIV-1 accessory protein, Vpr. Coexpression of the Vpr fusion proteins and an integrase-defective HIV-1 molecular clone by a producer cell line resulted in efficient incorporation of the fusion protein into the integrase-mutated virus. In addition, each of these viruses was infectious and capable of performing integration, as determined by two independent cellular assays that measure reporter gene expression. With the exception of the N-terminally truncated integrase fused to LexA, which was at about 1%, all of the fusion proteins restored integration to a similar level, at 17 to 24% of that of the wild-type virus. The low level observed with the N-terminally truncated integrase fused to LexA is consistent with previous results implying that the N terminus of integrase is involved in multiple steps of the retroviral life cycle. These data indicate that the integrase-fusion proteins retain catalytic function in the integrase-mutated viruses and demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating integrase fusion proteins into HIV-1 for the development of site-directed retroviral vectors
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