The Effect of Chemical Chaperones on the Assembly and Stability of HIV-1 Capsid Protein

Ayala Lampel, Yaron Bram, Michal Levy-Sakin, Eran Bacharach*, Ehud Gazit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chemical chaperones are small organic molecules which accumulate in a broad range of organisms in various tissues under different stress conditions and assist in the maintenance of a correct proteostasis under denaturating environments. The effect of chemical chaperones on protein folding and aggregation has been extensively studied and is generally considered to be mediated through non-specific interactions. However, the precise mechanism of action remains elusive. Protein self-assembly is a key event in both native and pathological states, ranging from microtubules and actin filaments formation to toxic amyloids appearance in degenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Another pathological event, in which protein assembly cascade is a fundamental process, is the formation of virus particles. In the late stage of the virus life cycle, capsid proteins self-assemble into highly-ordered cores, which encapsulate the viral genome, consequently protect genome integrity and mediate infectivity. In this study, we examined the effect of different groups of chemical chaperones on viral capsid assembly in vitro, focusing on HIV-1 capsid protein as a system model. We found that while polyols and sugars markedly inhibited capsid assembly, methylamines dramatically enhanced the assembly rate. Moreover, chemical chaperones that inhibited capsid core formation, also stabilized capsid structure under thermal denaturation. Correspondingly, trimethylamine N-oxide, which facilitated formation of high-order assemblies, clearly destabilized capsid structure under similar conditions. In contrast to the prevailing hypothesis suggesting that chemical chaperones affect proteins through preferential exclusion, the observed dual effects imply that different chaperones modify capsid assembly and stability through different mechanisms. Furthermore, our results indicate a correlation between the folding state of capsid to its tendency to assemble into highly-ordered structures.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere60867
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
StatePublished - 5 Apr 2013


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