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Nature. 1986 Oct 23-29;323(6090):725-8.

Induction of CD4-dependent cell fusion by the HTLV-III/LAV envelope glycoprotein.


Formation of syncytia, with progression to cell death, is a characteristic feature of in vitro cultures of susceptible cells infected with human T-lymphotropic virus type III/lymphadenopathy-associated virus (HTLV-III/LAV). Viral antigen-positive multinucleated giant cells have also been observed in histological sections from infected individuals. In vitro, formation of these multinucleated giant cells occurs through cell fusion which is dependent on cell-surface expression of the differentiation antigen CD4. Utilizing a recombinant vaccinia virus containing the gene for the envelope glycoprotein of HTLV-III/LAV, we demonstrate that cell-surface expression of this protein, in the absence of other HTLV-III/LAV structural or regulatory proteins, is sufficient to induce CD4-dependent cell fusion, leading to cell death, one of the characteristic manifestations of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) virus cytopathology. This process may contribute to the loss of CD4+ T cells seen in AIDS.

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