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J Virol. 2001 Apr;75(8):3903-15.

Ability of the V3 loop of simian immunodeficiency virus to serve as a target for antibody-mediated neutralization: correlation of neutralization sensitivity, growth in macrophages, and decreased dependence on CD4.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, New England Regional Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Southborough, Massachusetts 01772-9102, USA.


To better define the effects of sequence variation and tropism on the ability of the simian immunodeficiency virus SIVmac V3 loop to act as a target of antibody-mediated neutralization, a series of experiments were performed. Three SIV strains, SIVmac239, SIVmac316, and SIVmac155/T3, each with defined differences in env sequence and tropism, were used to construct a panel of viruses chimeric for a portion of envelope that includes the V2 and V3 regions. Peptides with sequences corresponding to the V3 loops of the parental viruses were used to immunize rabbits. The polyclonal rabbit antibodies and plasma from SIVmac239-infected animals were then used to assess the neutralization sensitivity of the parental and chimeric viruses. One of the parental viruses, SIVmac316, which is able to replicate to high titer in alveolar macrophages and can infect cells in a CD4-independent fashion, was highly sensitive to neutralization by plasma from SIVmac-infected rhesus macaques, with average 50% neutralization titers of 1:20,480; this same strain was also sensitive to neutralization by the anti-V3 loop peptide sera. Other parental and chimeric viruses were less sensitive to neutralization with this same panel of antibodies, but as seen with SIVmac316, those viruses that were able to productively replicate in alveolar macrophages were more sensitive to antibody-mediated neutralization. To further define the amino acids involved in increased sensitivity to neutralization, a panel of viruses was constructed by changing envelope residues in SIVmac316 to the corresponding SIVmac239 amino acids. The increased neutralization sensitivity observed for SIVmac316 was mapped principally to three amino acid changes spread throughout gp120. In addition, the increased sensitivity to neutralization by V3-directed antibodies correlated with the ability of the various viruses to replicate to high levels in alveolar macrophage cultures and a CD4-negative cell line, BC7/CCR5. These results demonstrate that the V3 loop of SIVmac Env can act as an efficient target of neutralizing antibodies in a fashion that is highly dependent on sequence context. In addition, these studies suggest a correlation between decreased dependence on CD4 and increased sensitivity to antibody-mediated neutralization.

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