We have studied the presence and significance of retroviral genome-derived DNA in the core of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) particles produced from transfections of HXB2 expression vectors in COS-7 cells and from HIV type 1 III chronically infected H9 cells. Viruses purified by sucrose cushion centrifugation and treated with DNase I contained 1000-fold more viral RNA than DNA. However protease-defective viruses that contained only p160 had less than 100 times the amount of DNA in their cores than wild-type viruses suggesting that the p66/p51 form of reverse transcriptase was responsible for DNA transcription. Viruses produced by transfections in the presence of 3′-azido-3′-deoxythymidine (AZT) contained the viral RNA genome but only DNA of premature length because of the chain terminating effects of AZT. However such viruses were as infectious for CD4 cells as wild-type virus. We conclude that retrovirus-derived DNA in HIV-1 particles is not required for infection and does not play a significant role in this process.


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