Simian retroviruses (SRVs), the etiological agent of a spontaneous Simian acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, endemically infects large percentages of Asian macaques housed in biomedical research colonies and severely compromises the effective use of these species as a viable research animal. We recently described the molecular cloning of a serogroup 2 SRV, D2/RHE/OR, which causes mild immunosuppression in rhesus macaques. A restriction site variant, D2/RHE/OR/V1, has also been recovered from severely ill animals endemically infected with D2/RHE/OR. We now report the complete nucleotide sequences of D2/RHE/OR and D2/RHE/OR/V1. Both infectious molecular clones retain the genetic structure typical of type D SRVs (5' LTR-gag-prt- pol-env-3' LTR) and encode identically sized 8105-bp proviruses. D2/RHE/OR and D2/RHE/OR/V1 are 99.3% similar at the amine acid level, exhibiting only 17 residue differences, of which 10 are located in the envelope glycoproteins. The molecular clones and reciprocal chimeric viruses were used to assess the contribution of different genetic domains to virus infectivity in a T cell infection assay. These experiments indicate that D2/RHE/OR has a reduced ability to infect specific T cell lines, especially Hut-78 and MT-4 cells, and that the envelope gene is not the sole determinant of in vitro tropism.
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