Understanding Retroviral Life Cycle and its Genomic RNA Packaging

Akhil Chameettachal, Farah Mustafa, Tahir A. Rizvi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Members of the family Retroviridae are important animal and human pathogens. Being obligate parasites, their replication involves a series of steps during which the virus hijacks the cellular machinery. Additionally, many of the steps of retrovirus replication are unique among viruses, including reverse transcription, integration, and specific packaging of their genomic RNA (gRNA) as a dimer. Progress in retrovirology has helped identify several molecular mechanisms involved in each of these steps, but many are still unknown or remain controversial. This review summarizes our present understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in various stages of retrovirus replication. Furthermore, it provides a comprehensive analysis of our current understanding of how different retroviruses package their gRNA into the assembling virions. RNA packaging in retroviruses holds a special interest because of the uniqueness of packaging a dimeric genome. Dimerization and packaging are highly regulated and interlinked events, critical for the virus to decide whether its unspliced RNA will be packaged as a “genome” or translated into proteins. Finally, some of the outstanding areas of exploration in the field of RNA packaging are highlighted, such as the role of epitranscriptomics, heterogeneity of transcript start sites, and the necessity of functional polyA sequences. An in-depth knowledge of mechanisms that interplay between viral and cellular factors during virus replication is critical in understanding not only the virus life cycle, but also its pathogenesis, and development of new antiretroviral compounds, vaccines, as well retroviral-based vectors for human gene therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number167924
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2023


  • RNA Packaging
  • RNA dimerization
  • RNA nuclear export
  • retroviral replication
  • retroviruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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