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J Virol. 2014 Mar;88(6):3255-72. doi: 10.1128/JVI.03814-13. Epub 2014 Jan 3.

Feline immunodeficiency virus envelope glycoproteins antagonize tetherin through a distinctive mechanism that requires virion incorporation.

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Department of Molecular Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.


BST2/tetherin inhibits the release of enveloped viruses from cells. Primate lentiviruses have evolved specific antagonists (Vpu, Nef, and Env). Here we characterized tetherin proteins of species representing both branches of the order Carnivora. Comparison of tiger and cat (Feliformia) to dog and ferret (Caniformia) genes demonstrated that the tiger and cat share a start codon mutation that truncated most of the tetherin cytoplasmic tail early in the Feliformia lineage (19 of 27 amino acids, including the dual tyrosine motif). Alpha interferon (IFN-α) induced tetherin and blocked feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) replication in lymphoid and nonlymphoid feline cells. Budding of bald FIV and HIV particles was blocked by carnivore tetherins. However, infectious FIV particles were resistant, and spreading FIV replication was uninhibited. Antagonism mapped to the envelope glycoprotein (Env), which rescued FIV from carnivore tetherin restriction when expressed in trans but, in contrast to known antagonists, did not rescue noncognate particles. Also unlike the primate lentiviral antagonists, but similar to the Ebola virus glycoprotein, FIV Env did not reduce intracellular or cell surface tetherin levels. Furthermore, FIV-enveloped FIV particles actually required tetherin for optimal release from cells. The results show that FIV Envs mediate a distinctive tetherin evasion. Well adapted to a phylogenetically ancient tetherin tail truncation in the Felidae, it requires functional virion incorporation of Env, and it shields the budding particle without downregulating plasma membrane tetherin. Moreover, FIV has evolved dependence on this protein: particles containing FIV Env need tetherin for optimal release from the cell, while Env(-) particles do not.


HIV-1 antagonizes the restriction factor tetherin with the accessory protein Vpu, while HIV-2 and the filovirus Ebola use their envelope (Env) glycoproteins for this purpose. It turns out that the FIV tetherin antagonist is also its Env protein, but the mechanism is distinctive. Unlike other tetherin antagonists, FIV Env cannot act in trans to rescue vpu-deficient HIV-1. It must be incorporated specifically into FIV virions to be active. Also unlike other retroviral antagonists, but similar to Ebola virus Env, it does not act by downregulating or degrading tetherin. FIV Env might exclude tetherin locally or direct assembly to tetherin-negative membrane domains. Other distinctive features are apparent, including evidence that this virus evolved an equilibrium in which tetherin is both restriction factor and cofactor, as FIV requires tetherin for optimal particle release.

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