HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) mediates virus attachment and entry into the host cells. Like other membrane-bound and secreted proteins, HIV-1 Env contains at its N terminus a signal peptide (SP) that directs the nascent Env to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) where Env synthesis and post-translational modifications take place. SP is cleaved during Env biosynthesis but potentially influences the phenotypic traits of the Env protein. The Env SP sequences of HIV-1 isolates display high sequence variability, and the significance of such variability is unclear. We postulate that changes in the Env SP influence Env transport through the ER-Golgi secretory pathway and Env folding and/or glycosylation that impact on Env incorporation into virions, receptor binding and antibody recognition. We first evaluated the consequences of mutating the charged residues in the Env SP in the context of infectious molecular clone HIV-1 REJO.c/2864. Results show that three different mutations affecting histidine at position 12 affected Env incorporation into virions that correlated with reduction of virus infectivity and DC-SIGN-mediated virus capture and transmission. Mutations at positions 8, 12, and 15 also rendered the virus more resistant to neutralization by monoclonal antibodies against the Env V1V2 region. These mutations affected the oligosaccharide composition of N-glycans as shown by changes in Env reactivity with specific lectins and by mass spectrometry. Increased neutralization resistance and N-glycan composition changes were also observed when analogous mutations were introduced to another HIV-1 strain, JRFL. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study showing that certain residues in the HIV-1 Env SP can affect virus neutralization sensitivity by modulating oligosaccharide moieties on the Env N-glycans. The HIV-1 Env SP sequences thus may be under selective pressure to balance virus infectiousness with virus resistance to the host antibody responses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology