last updated 25-05-2024

Retrovirus replicative cycle

Retrovirus replicative cycle

The retroviruses, like HIV, bind to the host cell membrane and enter the cell by endocytosis. Their RNA is reverse transcribed into DNA, which is integrated in the host cell genome. The integrated viral DNA is transcribed into new viral RNA and mRNA for viral protein synthesis. The assembly of viral components occurs in the cytoplasm and the new viruses are released from the host cell by budding.

HIV therapy involves a combination of antiretroviral drugs (HAART therapy): 2 NRTIs or a NRTI + a NNRTI or a NRTI + a protease inhibitor. Check next topics for the mechanism of action of these drugs. Recently, immunotherapy (IL-2, interferon) for HIV has gained interest. However, there is still no proof of clinical benefit.


Resistance to HIV strains results from mutations in the reverse transcriptase.


Anti-HIV drugs are mainly targeted against the translation of viral proteins and the viral assembly. 


Transcription of viral RNA in the host cell nucleus serves purposes: the replication of the viral genetic material and the template for viral protein synthesis.