Journal of Biological Chemistry vol:285 issue:28 pages:21769-21780
The HIV-1-encoded Rev protein is essential for the expression of late viral mRNAs. Rev forms a large organized multimeric protein-protein complex on the Rev response element of these viral mRNA species and transports them from the nucleus to the cytoplasm exploiting the CRM1-mediated cellular machinery. Here we report the selection of a nanobody, derived from a llama heavy-chain only antibody, that efficiently blocks the assembly of Rev multimers. The nanobody inhibits HIV-1 replication in cells and specifically suppresses the Rev-dependent expression of partially spliced and unspliced HIV-1 RNA. In HIV-susceptible cells, this nanobody thus has potential as an effective anti-HIV agent using genetic immunization strategies. Its binding site was mapped to Rev residues Lys-20 and Tyr-23 located in the N-terminal alpha-helical multimerization domain. In the presence of this nanobody we observed an accumulation of dimeric Rev species, supporting a head-to-head/tail-to-tail molecular model for Rev assembly. The results indicate that the oligomeric assembly of Rev follows an ordered stepwise process and identify a new epitope within Rev that could guide strategies for the development of novel HIV inhibitors.