Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) Vif protein counteracts feline APOBEC3s (FcaA3s) restriction factors by inducing their proteasomal degradation. The functional domains in FIV Vif for interaction with FcaA3s are poorly understood. Here, we have identified several motifs in FIV Vif that are important for selective degradation of different FcaA3s. Cats (Felis catus) express three types of A3s: single-domain A3Z2, A3Z3 and double-domain A3Z2Z3. We proposed that FIV Vif would selectively interact with the Z2 and the Z3 A3s. Indeed, we identified two N-terminal Vif motifs (12LF13 and 18GG19) that specifically interacted with the FcaA3Z2 protein but not with A3Z3. In contrast, the exclusive degradation of FcaA3Z3 was regulated by a region of three residues (M24, L25 and I27). Only a FIV Vif carrying a combination of mutations from both interaction sites lost the capacity to degrade and counteract FcaA3Z2Z3. However, alterations in the specific A3s interaction sites did not affect the cellular localization of the FIV Vif protein and binding to feline A3s. Pull-down experiments demonstrated that the A3 binding region localized to FIV Vif residues 50 to 80, outside the specific A3 interaction domain. Finally, we found that the Vif sites specific to individual A3s are conserved in several FIV lineages of domestic cat and non-domestic cats, while being absent in the FIV Vif of pumas. Our data support a complex model of multiple Vif-A3 interactions in which the specific region for selective A3 counteraction is discrete from a general A3 binding domain.
Both human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) Vif proteins counteract their host’s APOBEC3 restriction factors. However, these two Vif proteins have limited sequence homology. The molecular interaction between FIV Vif and feline APOBEC3s are not well understood. Here we have identified N-terminal FIV Vif sites that regulate the selective interaction of Vif with either feline APOBEC3Z2 or APOBEC3Z3. These specific Vif sites are conserved in several FIV lineages of domestic cat and non-domestic cats, while being absent in FIV Vif from puma. Our findings provide important insights for future experiments describing the FIV Vif interaction with feline APOBEC3s and also indicate that the conserved feline APOBEC3s interaction sites of FIV Vif allow FIV transmissions in Felidae.