Seven internal deletions within the p24 domain of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Gag precursor have been assessed for their effect on Gag particle formation following their expression using recombinant baculoviruses. In addition, each deleted molecule was assessed for its ability to bind soluble p24 antigen . The mutants fell into three different phenotypic groups: (i) three mutants that had no effect on either p24 binding or Gag particle assembly, (ii) three mutants that abolished both features and (iii) one mutant that bound p24 but failed to assemble particles. Mutations that abolished both p24 binding and particle assembly mapped to the C terminus of p24 confirming this region as critical for virion assembly. We suggest the division of virion assembly into at least two distinct phases and suggest a model in which the critical sequences mapped to date are combined with available structural information.


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