The design of an efficient human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) immunogen able to generate broad neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) remains an elusive goal. As more data emerge, it is becoming apparent that one important aspect of such an immunogen will be the proper representation of the envelope protein (Env) as it exists on native virions. Important questions that are yet to be fully addressed include what factors dictate Env processing, how different Env forms are represented on the virion, and ultimately how these issues influence the development and efficacy of NAbs. Recent data have begun to illuminate the extent to which changes in gp41 can impact the overall structure and neutralizing sensitivity of Env. Here, we present evidence to suggest that minor mutations in gp120 can significantly impact Env processing. We analyzed the gp120 sequences of 20 env variants that evolved in multiple macaques over 8 months of infection with simian/human immunodeficiency virus 89.6P. Variant gp120 sequences were subcloned into gp160 expression plasmids with identical cleavage motifs and gp41 sequences. Cells cotransfected with these plasmids and Δenv genomes were able to produce competent virus. The resulting pseudoviruses incorporated high levels of Env onto virions that exhibited a range of degrees of virion-associated Env cleavage (15 to 40%). Higher levels of cleavage correlated with increased infectivity and increased resistance to macaque plasma, HIV immunoglobulin, soluble CD4, and human monoclonal antibodies 4E10, 2F5, and b12. Based on these data, we discuss a model whereby changes in gp120 of 89.6P impact Env processing and thereby mediate escape from a range of neutralizing agents.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science