Viral integration complexes move along DNA “like a nut on a bolt rather than sliding along like a washer,” according to a prepared statement on study findings from researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

Findings like these could help improve treatments for HIV infection and make gene therapy safer and more efficient, according to the statement.

The researchers used Prototype Foamy Virus integrase as a model and two molecular microscopy techniques to record viral integration complexes traveling along stretches of target DNA in search of insertion points. 

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The integration complexes moved along the target DNA for distances of 1,500 DNA base pairs for periods of 2-3 seconds. Insertion of the viral DNA happened in less than a half second – 0.470 second to be precise, according to the study researchers

This work was supported by supported by the National Research Foundation and by the National Institutes of Health.


Jones ND, Lopez MA, Hanne J, et al. Retroviral intasomes search for a target DNA by 1D diffusion which rarely results in integration. Nature Comm. 2016; doi:10.1038/ncomms11409