CD8+ T Lymphocytes (CTL) can control AIDS virus replication. However, natural selection favoring viral variants that escape CTL recognition is a common feature of both simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of macaques and HIV infection of humans. Emerging data indicate that CTL directed against alternate reading frame (ARF)-derived epitopes (a.k.a. cryptic epitopes) are important components of the total virus-specific response in SIV and HIV infection but the contributions of these responses during the critical first several weeks of infection have not been determined. We used a focused deep sequencing approach to examine acute phase viral evolution in response to CTL targeting two polypeptides encoded by ARFs of SIVmac239 in SIV-infected rhesus macaques. We report high magnitude CTL responses as early as three weeks post-infection against epitopes within both ARFs, which both overlap the 5′ end of the env gene. Further, mutations accumulated in the epitopes by three to four weeks post infection consistent with viral escape. Interestingly, these mutations largely maintained the primary amino acid sequence of the overlapping Envelope protein. Our data show that high frequency CTL target cryptic epitopes and exert selective pressure on SIV during the acute phase, underscoring the importance of these unique immune responses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)