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J Virol. 2002 May;76(9):4199-211.

Role of N-linked glycans in a human immunodeficiency virus envelope glycoprotein: effects on protein function and the neutralizing antibody response.

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Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510, USA.


The envelope (Env) glycoprotein of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) contains 24 N-glycosylation sites covering much of the protein surface. It has been proposed that one role of these carbohydrates is to form a shield that protects the virus from immune recognition. Strong evidence for such a role for glycosylation has been reported for simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) mutants lacking glycans in the V1 region of Env (J. N. Reitter, R. E. Means, and R. C. Desrosiers, Nat. Med. 4:679-684, 1998). Here we used recombinant vesicular stomatitis viruses (VSVs) expressing HIV Env glycosylation mutants to determine if removal of carbohydrates in the V1 and V2 domains affected protein function and the generation of neutralizing antibodies in mice. Mutations that eliminated one to six of the sites for N-linked glycosylation in the V1 and V2 loops were introduced into a gene encoding the HIV type 1 primary isolate 89.6 envelope glycoprotein with its cytoplasmic domain replaced by that of the VSV G glycoprotein. The membrane fusion activities of the mutant proteins were studied in a syncytium induction assay. The transport and processing of the mutant proteins were studied with recombinant VSVs expressing mutant Env G proteins. We found that HIV Env V1 and V2 glycosylation mutants were no better than wild-type envelope at inducing antibodies neutralizing wild-type Env, although an Env mutant lacking glycans appeared somewhat more sensitive to neutralization by antibodies raised to mutant or wild-type Env. These results indicate significant differences between SIV and HIV with regard to the roles of glycans in the V1 and V2 domains.

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