Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences


College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Michael Black

Advisor Department

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Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Despite recent advances in antiretroviral therapy, nearly 37 million people continue to live with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Basic and applied research on the assembly of HIV could be enhanced by using a genetically tractable organism, such as yeast, rather than mammalian cells. While previous studies showed that expression of the HIV Gag polyprotein in Saccharomyces cerevisiae spheroplasts resulted in the production of virus-like particles (VLPs), many questions regarding the utility of yeast in HIV assembly remain uninvestigated. Here, we report use of S. cerevisiae for both the production of VLPs with selectively packaged RNA and to evaluate the human Y-box-binding protein 1 (YB-1) in selective RNA packaging into VLPs. Our data reveal: (1) When co-expressed alongside HIV-1 Gag, an RNA mammalian expression cassette is selectively encapsidated and released in VLPs produced from spheroplasts; (2) Inclusion of the 5’UTR-5’Gag RNA upstream of the mammalian expression cassette greatly increased the selectivity to which non-viral RNA was packaged into VLPs; and (3) heterologous expression of the human YB-1 protein in S. cerevisiae did not facilitate the selective packaging of viral RNA into VLPs, likely due to inability to bind upstream elements in the HIV-1 viral RNA. Overall, this research provides a key first step in the use of yeast for the production of viral vectors used in gene therapy, and lays a foundation for further experiments investigating the role of YB-1 and other host proteins in selective RNA packaging.