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Virology. 1998 Sep 1;248(2):275-83.

Chronology of genetic changes in the vpu, env, and Nef genes of chimeric simian-human immunodeficiency virus (strain HXB2) during acquisition of virulence for pig-tailed macaques.

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Marion Merrell Dow Laboratory of Viral Pathogenesis, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas, 66160, USA.


Recently, we developed a highly pathogenic variant of simian-human immunodeficiency virus, SHIV-4 (containing the tat, rev, vpu, and env of the HXB2 strain of HIV-1 in a genetic background of SIVmac239), through a series of four bone marrow-bone marrow passages-first in rhesus monkeys and then in pig-tailed macaques [Joag et al. (1996) J. Virol. 70, 3189-3197]. Inoculation of pig-tailed macaques with this pathogenic virus (SHIVKU-1) causes subtotal elimination of CD4(+) T cells and fatal opportunistic infections, usually within 6 months. Genetic characterization of SHIVKU-1 showed that it has a functional vpu gene (the first codon is ATG vs ACG for the vpu of SHIV-4) and several amino acid substitutions in Env and nef [Stephens et al. (1997) Virology 231, 313-321]. Two pig-tailed macaques, PPc and PQc, were the first to develop a severe loss of CD4(+) T cells and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome and were euthanized at 26 and 105 weeks, respectively. In this report, we analyzed the changes that occurred in the vpu, nef, and env (gp120) genes of the virus used to inoculate macaques PPc and PQc and established the chronology of changes that occurred in these viral genes as these two animals lost their CD4(+) T cells and progressed to develop acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Compared with SHIV-4, the virus used to inoculate macaques PPc and PQc had 0, 3, and 0 consensus amino acid changes in the Vpu, gp120, and Nef, respectively. An analysis of the viral sequences amplified from peripheral blood mononuclear cells samples taken at various times after inoculation of PPc revealed that the vpu had not reverted to an open reading frame (closed vpu, ACG) at 4 weeks after inoculation, but by 16 weeks vpu had reverted to an open reading frame (open vpu, ATG). Macaque PQc, which had a longer course of disease, had a closed vpu at 4 and 16 weeks, but by 28 weeks, both closed and open vpu were detected. From 39 to 105 weeks, only an open vpu was detected. In both macaques, the reversion to an open vpu correlated well with the second phase (major) of CD4(+) T cell loss. An analysis of the nef and env sequences isolated from the same times after inoculation revealed an association between the reversion of vpu to an open reading frame and the accumulation of increased numbers of consensus changes in these two viral proteins. These data suggest that the concomitant reversion of vpu to an open reading frame along with increased substitutions in Nef and gp120 were important genetic changes in the viral genome that were responsible for the increased and highly efficient rate of replication of the virus in CD4(+) T cells and macrophages, which in turn led to elimination of the CD4(+) T cells and profound loss of immunocompetence in the infected animals.

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