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J Virol. 1992 Feb;66(2):757-65.

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 clones chimeric for the envelope V3 domain differ in syncytium formation and replication capacity.

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Human Retrovirus Laboratory, The Netherlands Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, Amsterdam.


Chimeric human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) molecular clones differing only in the envelope V3 region were constructed. The V3 regions were derived from two HIV-1 isolates with a non-syncytium-inducing, non-T-cell-tropic phenotype and from four HIV-1 isolates with a syncytium-inducing, T-cell-tropic phenotype. When assayed in SupT1 cells, the two chimeric viruses with a V3 region derived from the non-syncytium-inducing isolates did not induce syncytia and showed a low level of replication. The four chimeric viruses with a V3 region derived from the syncytium-inducing isolates did induce syncytia and replicated efficiently in SupT1 cells. In A3.01 cells, which do not support syncytium formation, the V3 loop affected replication similarly. Upon prolonged culture in SupT1 cells, the phenotype of a non-syncytium-inducing, low-replicating chimeric HIV-1 converted into a syncytium-inducing, high-replicating phenotype. Mutations within the usually conserved GPGR tip of the loop, which were shown to be responsible for the conversion into the syncytium-inducing, high-replicating phenotype, had occurred. In vitro mutagenesis showed that coupled changes of amino acids at both sides of the tip of the V3 loop were able to convert the viral phenotype from non-syncytium-inducing, low replicating into syncytium inducing, high replicating. Our data show that the V3 loop is involved in both syncytium forming and replicative capacity of HIV-1.

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