Loop 1 of APOBEC3C regulates its antiviral activity against HIV-1
APOBEC3 deaminases (A3s) provide mammals with an anti-retroviral barrier by catalyzing dC-to-dU deamination on viral ssDNA. Within primates, A3s have evolved diversely via gene duplications and fusions. Human APOBEC3C (hA3C) efficiently restricts the replication of viral infectivity factor (vif)-deficient Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVΔvif), but for unknown reasons, it inhibits HIV-1Δvif weakly. In catarrhines (Old World monkeys and apes), the A3C loop 1 displays the conserved amino acid
... r WE, while the corresponding consensus sequence in A3F and A3D is the largely divergent pair RK, which is also the inferred ancestral sequence for the last common ancestor of A3C|D|F in primates. Here, we report that modifying the WE residues in hA3C loop 1 to RK leads to stronger interactions with ssDNA substrate, facilitating catalytic function, which resulted in a drastic increase in both deamination activity and the ability to restrict HIV-1 and LINE-1 replication. Conversely, the modification hA3F_WE resulted only in a marginal decrease in HIV-1Δvif inhibition. The two series of ancestral gene duplications that generated A3C, A3D-CTD and A3F-CTD allowed neo/subfunctionalization: A3F-CTD maintained the ancestral RK residues in loop 1, while strong evolutionary pressure selected for the RK→WE modification in catarrhines A3C, possibly allowing for novel substrate specificity and function. Keywords: APOBEC3C, APOBEC3F, Sooty Mangabey monkey, cytidine deaminase, deamination-dependent virus restriction, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), LINE-1, gene duplication, paralogs, evolution. AUTHOR SUMMARY: The restriction factors of the APOBEC3 (A3) family of cytidine deaminases inhibit the replication of Vif-deficient retroviruses mainly by mutating their viral genomes. While there are seven A3 proteins (A3A-A3H) found in humans only A3G and A3F potently inhibit HIV-1 replication. A3C in general and its retroviral restriction capacity have not been widely studied probably due to its weak anti-HIV-1 activity, however, it displays a strong antiviral effect against SIV. Understanding the role of A3C is important because it is highly expressed in CD4+ T cells, is upregulated upon HIV-1 infection, and is distributed cell-wide. In this study, we report that replacing two residues in loop 1 of A3C protein with conserved positively-charged amino acids enhance the substrate DNA binding, which markedly facilitates its deamination-dependent antiviral activity against HIV-1 as well as increasing the restriction of LINE-1 retroelements. Furthermore, our evolutionary analysis demonstrates that the pressure that caused the loss of potential loop 1 residues occurred only in A3C but not in primate homologues. Overall, our study highlights the possibility of A3C acting as a super restriction factor, however, this was likely evolutionarily selected against to achieve a balance between anti-viral/anti-LINE-1 activity and genotoxicity.