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Nature. 1987 Aug 20-26;328(6132):728-30.

The HIV 'A' (sor) gene product is essential for virus infectivity.


The genome of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) contains several open reading frames (ORFs) not present in other viruses. The 'A' gene, also known as Q2 P'3, ORF-1(4) or sor5, partially overlaps the pol gene; its protein product has a relative molecular mass of 23,000 (Mr 23K) and is present in productively infected cells. The function of this protein is unclear; mutant viruses deleted in 'A' replicate in and kill CD4+ lymphocyte lines, but the high degree of conservation of the deduced amino-acid sequence in nine different HIV isolates (80%) and the presence of analogous genes in HIV-2 and other lentiviruses suggest that the gene function is an important one. Here we describe a mutant virus deficient in the 'A' gene which produces virion particles normally; however, the particles are approximately 1,000 times less infective than wild type. Transcomplementation experiments partially restore infectivity. The mutant virus spreads efficiently when virus-producing cells are co-cultivated with CD4+ lymphocytes, however, indicating that HIV can spread from cell to cell in a mechanism that does not require the 'A' gene product and probably does not require the production of infective virus particles.

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