A functional Nef protein is crucial in vivo for viral replication leading to pathogenesis in SIV-infected macaques. Moreover, a full-length Nef protein is required for optimal virus replication in primary cells, and both HIV and SIV Nef proteins enhance virion infectivity. Enhanced infectivity may result in part from the ability of Nef to incorporate cellular kinases into virions. In two previous reports, we compared in vitro kinase profiles of SIV recombinant clones that express nef genes derived either from the prototypic lymphocyte-tropic SIVmac239, clone SIV/Fr-2, or from our neurovirulent clone SIV/17E-Fr. While the SIV/Fr-2 Nef protein associated with the previously described PAK-related kinase and an unidentified serine kinase present in a Nef-associated kinase complex (NAKC), SIV/17E-Fr Nef was found to associate with a novel serine kinase activity that was biochemically distinct from both PAK and NAKC. Interestingly, while both Nef proteins were incorporated into virus particles, Nef-associated kinase activity was detected only in virions containing the SIV/17E-Fr Nef protein. Because sequence analysis identified only five amino acids that differed between the Nef proteins of SIV/Fr-2 and SIV/17E-Fr, we were able to evaluate the contribution of each amino acid to Nef-associated kinase activity as well as virus infectivity by constructing a panel of SIV clones containing individual reversions of each differing amino acid in SIV/17E-Fr Nef to the corresponding amino acid in SIV/Fr-2 Nef. In this report, we identify previously uncharacterized amino acids in the N terminus and the conserved core domain of Nef that are essential for the detection of Nef/kinase interactions as well as Nef phosphorylation during SIV infection. Further, via a novel infectivity assay recently developed in our laboratory that utilizes CEMX174 reporter cells stably expressing an SIV/LTR-luciferase construct, we find no direct correlation between specific Nef kinase associations and enhanced virion infectivity. (C) 2000 Academic Press.
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