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J Virol. 2007 Oct;81(20):10838-48. Epub 2007 Aug 8.

Infectivity and neutralization of simian immunodeficiency virus with FLAG epitope insertion in gp120 variable loops.

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  • 1New England Primate Research Center, One Pine Hill Drive, Box 9102, Southborough, MA 01772-9102, USA.


A FLAG epitope tag was substituted within variable loop 1 (V1), 2 (V2), or 4 (V4) of the gp120 envelope glycoprotein of simian immunodeficiency virus strain 239 (SIV239) to evaluate the extent to which each variable loop may serve as a target for antibody-mediated neutralization. Two sites within each variable loop of SIV239 were chosen for individual epitope tag insertions. FLAG epitope substitutions were also made in the V1, V2, and V4 loops of a neutralization-sensitive derivative of SIV239, SIV316. Of the 10 FLAG-tagged recombinant viruses analyzed, three (SIV239FV1b, SIV239FV2b, and SIV239FV4a) replicated with kinetics similar to those of the parental strain, SIV239, in both CEMx174 cells and the immortalized rhesus monkey T-cell line 221. The SIV316FV1b and SIV316FV4a FLAG variants replicated with a substantial lag, and the five remaining recombinants did not replicate detectably. Both gp160 and gp120 from replication-competent FLAG variants could be immunoprecipitated from transfected 293T cells by the anti-gp120 rhesus monoclonal antibody (RhMAb) 3.11H, the anti-FLAG MAb M2, and CD4-immunoglobulin, whereas only unprocessed gp160 was detected in 293T cells transfected with replication-defective variants. Furthermore, gp120 was detectably incorporated only into virions that were infectious. SIV239FV1b was sensitive to neutralization by MAb M2, with a 50% inhibitory concentration of 1 mug/ml. Neither SIV239FV2b nor SIV239FV4a was sensitive to M2 neutralization. The ability of the M2 antibody to neutralize SIV239FV1b infectivity was associated with an increased ability of the M2 antibody to detect native, oligomeric SIV239FV1b envelope protein on the surfaces of cells relative to that for the other SIV FLAG variants. Furthermore, SIV239FV1b was globally more sensitive to antibody-mediated neutralization than was parental SIV239 when these strains were screened with a panel of anti-SIV MAbs of various specificities. These results indicate that the V1 loop can serve as an effective target for neutralization on SIV239FV1b. However, antibody-mediated neutralization of this variant, similar to that of other SIV239 variants that have been studied previously, was associated with a global increase in neutralization sensitivity. These results suggest that the variable loops on the neutralization-resistant SIV239 strain are difficult for antibodies to access effectively and that mutations that allow neutralization have global effects on the trimeric envelope glycoprotein structure and accessibility.

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