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Virology. 1998 Dec 5;252(1):9-16.

Importance of the intracytoplasmic domain of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) envelope glycoprotein for pathogenesis.

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Department of Medical Pathology, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


SIVmac1A11 and SIVmac239 are nonpathogenic and pathogenic molecular clones in rhesus macaques, respectively. Although these viruses exhibit approximately 98% nucleotide and amino acid sequence homology, differences are found in the length of the translation frames for several genes. SIVmac239 has a premature stop codon in nef, whereas SIVmac1A11 has a premature stop codon in vpr and two premature stop codons in the intracytoplasmic domain of the env-transmembrane (TM) subunit. Recombinant viruses, constructed through reciprocal exchange of large DNA restriction enzyme fragments between SIVmac1A11 and SIVmac239, were evaluated in adult rhesus macaques. This in vivo analysis revealed that two or more regions of the SIVmac genome were essential for high virus load and disease progression (Marthas et al., 1993. J. Virol. 67, 6047-6055). An important gap in knowledge remaining from this study was whether the premature stop codons in env-TM of recombinant virus SIV1A11/239gag-env/1A11 (Full-length vpr and nef, two stop codons in env-TM) reverted to coding triplets in vivo. Here, we report that viral sequences in macaques, which succumbed to an AIDS-like disease after infection with SIV1A11/239gag-env/1A11, exhibited reversion of both env-TM stop codons. In addition, antibodies to the intracytoplasmic domain of env-TM were detected in macaques containing revertant virus and showing disease; this finding indicates that this domain of the env glycoprotein was expressed in vivo. Thus selection for viral variants with full-length env-TM demonstrated that the cytoplasmic domain of the SIVmac env glycoprotein plays a role in viral persistence and immunodeficiency in primates.

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