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J Virol. 1997 Mar;71(3):2225-32.

Construction, replication, and immunogenic properties of a simian immunodeficiency virus expressing interleukin-2.

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  • 1Institut fur Klinische und Molekulare Virologie, Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg, Erlangen, Germany.


To study the effect of interleukin-2 (IL-2) on simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) replication, pathogenesis, and immunogenicity, we replaced the nef gene of SIVmac239 by the IL-2 coding region. The virus, designated SIV-IL2, stably expressed high levels of IL-2 in cell culture. In comparison to SIVmac239, SIV-IL2 replicated more efficiently in peripheral blood mononuclear cells in the absence of exogenously added IL-2. To determine whether this growth advantage would be of relevance in vivo, four juvenile rhesus monkeys were infected with SIV-IL2 and four monkeys were infected with a nef deletion mutant of SIV (SIVdeltaNU). After a peak in the cell-associated viral load 2 weeks postinfection, the viruses could barely be isolated 3 to 7 months postinfection. Mean capsid antigen levels were higher in the SIV-IL2 group than in the nef deletion group 2 weeks postinfection. Viruses reisolated from the SIV-IL2-infected animals expressed high levels of IL-2 during the acute phase of infection. Deletions in the IL-2 coding region of SIV-IL2 were observed in two of the SIV-IL2-infected macaques 3 months postinfection. Urinary neopterin levels, a marker for unspecific immune stimulation, were higher in the SIV-IL2-infected macaques than in SIVdeltaNU-infected animals during the acute phase of infection. The SIV-specific T-cell-proliferative response and antibody titers were similar in both groups. Cytotoxic T cells directed against viral antigens were detected in all SIV-IL2-infected macaques and in two of the SIVdeltaNU-infected animals. Expression of IL-2 did not seem to alter the attenuated phenotype of nef deletion mutants fundamentally, although there might have been a slight increase in virus replication and immune stimulation during the acute phase of infection. Deletion of the viral IL-2 gene 3 months postinfection could be a consequence of a selective disadvantage due to local coexpression of viral antigen and IL-2 in the presence of an antiviral immune response.

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