Integrase comprises three domains capable of folding independently and whose three-dimensional structures are known. However, the manner in which the N-terminal, catalytic core, and C-terminal domains interact in the holoenzyme remains obscure. Numerous studies indicate that the enzyme functions as a multimer, minimally a dimer. The integrase proteins from Human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) and Avian sarcoma virus have been studied most carefully with respect to the structural basis of catalysis. Although the active site of Avian sarcoma virus integrase does not undergo significant conformational changes on binding the required metal cofactor, that of HIV-1 does. This active site-mediated conformational change in HIV-1 reorganises the catalytic core and C-terminal domains and appears to promote an interaction that is favourable for catalysis .
Retroviral integrase is synthesised as part of the POL polyprotein that contains; an aspartyl protease, a reverse transcriptase, RNase H and integrase. POL polyprotein undergoes specific enzymatic cleavage to yield the mature proteins. The presence of retrovirus integrase-related gene sequences in eukaryotes is known. Bacterial transposases involved in the transposition of the insertion sequence also belong to this group.
Human immunodeficiency virus integrase catalyses the incorporation of virally derived DNA into the human genome. This unique step in the virus life cycle provides a variety of points for intervention and hence is an attractive target for the development of new therapeutics for the treatment of AIDS . Substrate recognition by the retroviral integrase enzyme is critical for retroviral integration. To catalyze this recombination event, integrase must recognize and act on two types of substrates, viral DNA and host DNA, yet the necessary interactions exhibit markedly different degrees of specificity .