hiv genome, hiv structure
Joseph Watts and Kevin Weeks/UNC
Structures found in the HIV RNA genome as identified by UNC researchers. Spheres
indicate individual RNA nucleotides. Approximately 2000 nucleotides of the 10,000-
nucleotide-long HIV genome are shown.

Reseachers Construct First Complete View of HIV Genome

August 17, 2009 07:30 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Researchers have identified the structure of the HIV genome, giving scientists a big picture view of the complex RNA virus.

Structure of HIV Genome Decoded

Researchers at the University of North Carolina have traced the shape of the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) genome, the first time that the full genetic structure of HIV has been identified.

HIV carries its genetic information on RNA rather than DNA, as do other viruses such as influenza, polio and hepatitis C. The single-stranded RNA is far more complex than DNA, explains the UNC press release, because “RNA is able to fold into intricate patterns and structures. These structures are created when the ribbon-like RNA genome folds back on itself to make three-dimensional objects.”
The research team, lead by UNC chemistry professor Kevin Weeks, used a method called SHAPE (selective 2’-hydroxyl acylation analyzed by primer extension) to find “information for more than 99 percent of the 9,173 nucleotides in the virus’ genome,” according to GenomeWeb Daily News.

The findings provide a “big picture” look of the virus, helping scientists develop drugs and treatment plans to fight HIV and other RNA viruses, reports Reuters.

“We are also beginning to understand tricks the genome uses to help the virus escape detection by the human host,” said Weeks.

Background: HIV genome; RNA viruses; SHAPE

HIV Genome

The Los Alamos National Laboratory provides a map identifying the landmarks of the HIV genome, with explanations of each element in the genome.

RNA Viruses

There are six classes of viruses, four of which are RNA viruses. HIV is part of Class VI, which “have a positive single- stranded RNA genome but with a DNA intermediate not only in replication but also in mRNA synthesis,” explains MedicineNet.

The University of Cape Town offers an examination of Class VI viruses
, including an animation of the HIV infection process.

SHAPE (Selective 2’-Hydroxyl Acylation Analyzed by Primer Extension)

SHAPE is a method that uses chemical reactions to set apart RNA from DNA. It is explained by Weeks and his team in “Accurate SHAPE-directed RNA structure determination,” a study published in 2009 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reference: HIV/AIDS Web Guide


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