To identify the molecular determinants of neurovirulence, we constructed an infectious simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) molecular clone, SIV/17E- Fr, that contained the 3' end of a neurovirulent strain of SIV, SIV/17E-Br, derived by in vivo virus passage. SIV/17E-Fr is macrophage tropic in vitro and neurovirulent in macaques. In contrast, a molecular clone, SIV/17E-Cl, that contains the SU and a portion of the TM sequences of SIV/17E-Br is macrophage tropic but not neurovirulent. To identify the amino acids that accounted for the replication differences between SIV/17E-Fr and SIV/17E-Cl in primary macaque cells in vitro, additional infectious molecular clones were constructed. Analysis of these recombinant viruses revealed that changes in the TM portion of the envelope protein were required for the highest level of replication in primary macaque macrophages and brain cells derived from the microvessel endothelium. In addition, a full-length Nef protein is necessary for optimum virus replication in both of these cell types. Finally, viruses expressing a full-length Nef protein in conjunction with the changes in the TM had the highest specific infectivity in a sMAGI assay. Thus, changes in the TM and nef genes between SIV/17E-Cl and SIV/17E-Fr account for replication differences in vitro and correlate with replication in the central nervous system in vivo.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science