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Virology. 1995 Feb 20;207(1):217-28.

A comparative study of higher primate foamy viruses, including a new virus from a gorilla.

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Department of Communicable Diseases, Jefferiss Research Trust Laboratories, St Mary's Hospital Medical School, London, United Kingdom.


Few foamy (spuma) retroviruses have been investigated in molecular detail, despite their previous isolation from several mamalian species, including ten neutralization serotypes from various primates. Here, we have studied a new gorilla foamy virus (SFV-Gg) and investigated its functional and phylogenetic relationship to the human (HFV) and other primate foamy viruses, including that recently described in orangutans (SFV-11). Nucleotide sequencing of PCR products obtained from the R/U5 region of the LTR, gag, and pol genes revealed a close relationship between HFV and three chimpanzee isolates (SFV-6, SFV-7, and SFV-cpz). The SFV-Gg, SFV-11, rhesus macaque (SFV-1), and African green monkey (SFV-3) isolates were more divergent. To explore functional relationships, primate foamy virus transactivation of HFV LTR driven beta-galactosidase expression in a newly constructed cell line, BHLL, was investigated. HFV, SFV-6, and SFV-7 potently transactivated HFV LTR driven lacZ gene expression, SFV-Gg induced expression approximately 10-fold less efficiently, and SFV types 1, 2, 3, and 11 did not significantly transactivate the HFV LTR. It was, thus, possible to assay serum neutralizing activity in SFV-infected primates against HFV, SFV-6, and SFV-7 by reduction of beta-galactosidase activity following infection of the indicator cell line. Sera from infected chimpanzees and gorillas neutralized, to varying degrees, each of these three viruses, whereas orangutan sera did not. Our results, based on DNA sequences and functional assays, support the conclusion that HFV is closely related to foamy viruses of chimpanzee origin.

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