Retroviral integrases (IN) catalyze the integration of the reverse-transcribed viral DNA into the host genome, an essential process leading to virus replication. For Moloney murine leukemia virus (M-MuLV) IN, the limited solubility of the recombinant protein has restricted the development of biophysical and structural analyses. Herein, recombinant M-MuLV IN proteins, either full length or two nonoverlapping domain constructs, were purified under non-denaturing conditions from solubilized bacterial extracts by Ni2+-NTA resins. Additionally, WT IN was further purified by heparin chromatography. All of the purified proteins were shown to be active and stable. WT M-MuLV IN chromatographed with a peak corresponding with a dimer by gel filtration chromatography. In contrast, the single point mutant C209A IN migrated predominantly as a tetramer. For both proteins, fractions in equilibrium between dimers and tetramers were competent to assemble concerted two-end integrations and yielded a unique strand-transfer profile in the presence of a 28-mer U5 oligonucleotide substrate, indicative of a distinct conformation within the synaptic complex. This specific target-site selection was not observed with a shorter 20-mer U5 substrate. These studies provide the foundation for biophysical and structural analysis on M-MuLV IN and the mechanism of retroviral integration.
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