All retroviruses are relatively simple entities, consisting of an RNA genome and a protein coat called a capsid.  They have a glycoprotein envelope which causes them to be delicate and unstable.  Outside of the host, they are inert particles.  Retroviruses do not contain all the pertinent machinery for transcription and translation, which is why they are dependant on host cells for proliferation (6).  Once the virus infects target cells, they manipulate the cell and use it to:

1)     synthesize viral proteins encoded in the viral genome

2)     replicate the viral genome

retro flowchart of replication

The newly synthesized viral proteins assemble around a copy of the viral genome and the newly formed virions leave the cell through cellular budding (6).  Once outside the infected cell, the viruses are able to infect more cells.  This is the basic function of all retroviruses.

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