Author(s): Reeves JD, Schulz TF
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Abstract Several human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) strains have been shown to infect some CD4-negative cell lines (P. R. Clapham, A. McKnight, and R. A. Weiss, J. Virol. 66:3531-3537, 1992). Using molecular clones of HIV-2 with a CD4-independent tropism, we have identified critical amino acid residues in the envelope protein which are required for CD4-independent infection. Mutations located immediately upstream of a proposed coiled coil domain in the transmembrane protein (A526T or I528M) and flanking the base of the V4 loop (L378F and K403R) are crucial for the CD4-independent phenotype. Of several mutations conferring a positive charge in V1, V2, and V3, only the change in V3 (Q310K) helped to enhance the CD4-independent phenotype but could not mediate it on its own. These mutations reduce the amount of soluble CD4 required to trigger CD4-independent cell-cell fusion, suggesting that they lower the activation threshold for the fusion process. After binding to cell surface-anchored CD4, a CD4-independent recombinant envelope protein showed an increased binding of anti-envelope protein antibodies, suggesting either an enhanced binding to cell surfaces or more extensive conformational changes in CD4-independent compared to CD4-dependent envelope proteins. The reduced activation threshold of CD4-independent envelope proteins may thus enable them to utilize a membrane molecule for entry which is not as efficient as CD4 in triggering the conformational changes required for the membrane fusion process. CD4-independent HIV-2 variants may be conceptually similar to influenza virus variants capable of fusing at a higher than normal pH (R. S. Daniels, J. C. Downie, J. A. Hay, M. Knossow, J. J. Skehel, M. L. Wang, and D. C. Wiley, Cell 40:431-439, 1985).
This article was published in J Virol
and referenced in Journal of Genetic Syndromes & Gene Therapy