We isolated a revertant virus after prolonged culturing of a replication-impaired human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) mutant of which the Rev open reading frame was inactivated by mutation of the AUG translation initiation codon. Sequencing of the tat-rev region of this revertant virus identified a second-site mutation in tat that restored virus replication in the mutant background. This mutation activated a cryptic 5′ splice site (ss) that, when used in conjunction with the regular HIV 3′ ss #5, fuses the tat and rev reading frames to encode a novel T-Rev fusion protein that rescues Rev function. We also demonstrate an alternative route to indirectly activate this cryptic 5′ ss by mutational inactivation of an adjacent exon splicing silencer element.
Auxiliary splicing signals in introns play an important role in splice site selection, but these elements are poorly understood. We show that a subset of serine/arginine (SR)-rich proteins activate a cryptic 3′ splice site in a sense Alu repeat located in intron 4 of the human LST1 gene. Utilization of this cryptic splice site is controlled by juxtaposed Alu-derived splicing silencers and enhancers between closely linked short tandem repeats TNFd and TNFe. Systematic mutagenesis of these elements showed that AG dinucleotides that were not preceded by purine residues were critical for repressing exon inclusion of a chimeric splicing reporter. Since the splice acceptor-like sequences are present in excess in exonic splicing silencers, these signals may contribute to inhibition of a large number of pseudosites in primate genomes.