Mutations at the C-terminus of the simian immunodeficiency virus envelope glycoprotein affect gp120-gp41 stability on virions
Affranchino, José L.
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The transmembrane (TM) subunit of the envelope (Env) glycoprotein of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) contains an unusually long cytoplasmic domain of 164 amino acids. Previously, we identified domains in the SIV TM cytoplasmic tail that are necessary for Env incorporation into virions and viral infectivity. In this study, we investigated the relevance to Env function of the highly conserved sequence comprising the immediate C-terminal 19 residues of TM. To this end, small in-frame deletions as well as a premature stop codon mutation were introduced into the coding region for the SIV TM C-terminus. All the mutant Env glycoproteins were expressed, processed and transported to the cell surface in an essentially wild-type manner. Moreover, the ability of the mutant Env proteins to mediate cell-to-cell fusion was similar to or slightly lower than that of the wild-type Env. However, viruses expressing the mutant Env glycoproteins were found to be poorly infectious in single-cycle infectivity assays. Further characterization of the TM mutant viruses revealed that while exhibiting wild-type levels of the TM protein, they contained significantly lower levels of the Env surface (SU) subunit, which is consistent with increased SU shedding from virions after Env incorporation. This phenotype was independent of Gag processing, since genetic inactivation of the viral protease did not increase SU retention by the resulting immature particles. Our findings indicate that deletions at the C-terminus of the SIV Env promote the instability of the SU-TM association on the virion surface and point to an important role for the TM cytoplasmic domain in modulating Env structure. D 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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