Scientific reports 2016 04 226() 24957 doi 10.1038/srep24957
Viruses use a strategy of high mutational rates to adapt to environmental and therapeutic pressures, circumventing the deleterious effects of random single-point mutations by coevolved compensatory mutations, which restore protein fold, function or interactions damaged by initial ones. This mechanism has been identified as contributing to drug resistance in the HIV-1 Gag polyprotein and especially its capsid proteolytic product, which forms the viral capsid core and plays multifaceted roles in the viral life cycle. Here, we determined the X-ray crystal structure of C-terminal domain of the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) capsid and through interspecies analysis elucidate the structural basis of co-evolutionarily and spatially correlated substitutions in capsid sequences, which when otherwise uncoupled and individually substituted into HIV-1 capsid impair virion assembly and infectivity. The ability to circumvent the deleterious effects of single amino acid substitutions by cooperative secondary substitutions allows mutational flexibility that may afford viruses an important survival advantage. The potential of such interspecies structural analysis for preempting viral resistance by identifying such alternative but functionally equivalent patterns is discussed.