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Immunology. 1995 Jun;85(2):176-83.

The effect of a single amino acid substitution within the V3 loop of HIV-1 gp120 on HLA-DR1-restricted CD4 T-cell recognition.

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  • 1Department of Genito-Urinary Medicine and Communicable Diseases, St Mary's Hospital Medical School, London, UK.


Viral variation has been proposed to play a role in the pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) infection, and is an important consideration in vaccine design. During the course of an infection, isolates with sequence changes in CD8 T-cell and B-cell epitopes arise. To determine whether sequence variation within the V3 loop of HIV-1 gp120 affects HLA-DR beta 1*0101-restricted CD4 T-cell recognition, we have generated CD4 T-cell clones (TLC) specific to gp120 V3 loop peptides. Four HLA-DR beta 1*0101-restricted groups of TLC were defined by distinct patterns of responses to a panel of peptides, consistent with a highly diverse T-cell repertoire recognizing the 30 amino acid stretch (296-326) of the gp120 V3 loop. Nevertheless, a single residue change at position 311 was found to abolish the recognition of two of the four groups of TLC. This was not due to an effect of the residue at 311 on binding to major histocompatibility complex (MHC), because: (1) irrespective of the residue at 311, peptides competed well with the influenza haemagglutinin peptide 307-319 for binding to cell-bound DR1; and (2) R311-specific TLC were also HLA DR beta 1*0101 restricted. Instead, the substitution of arginine for serine at position 311 blocked the interaction of the peptide with the T-cell receptor. Thus, despite the diversity of the T-cell response to the V3 loop of HIV-1, a single amino acid change can have a considerable influence on the responding T-cell population. As residue 311 is one of the most variable of the V3 loop residues, these results suggest that CD4 recognition can also exert pressure on viral variation consistent with a role for these cells in antiviral immunity.

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