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The human antibody response against HIV-1 infection recognizes diverse antigenic subunits of the virion, and includes a high level of antibodies to the Gag protein. We report here the isolation and characterization of a subset of Gag-specific human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that were prevalent in the antibody repertoire of an HIV-infected individual. Several lineages of Gag-specifc mAbs were encoded by a single antibody heavy chain variable region, VH4-59, and a representative antibody from this group designated mAb 3E4 recognized a linear epitope on the globular head of the p17 subunit of Gag. We found no evidence that mAb 3E4 exhibited any function in laboratory studies aimed at elucidating the immunologic activity, including assays for neutralization, Ab-dependent cell-mediated virus inhibition, or enhanced T cell reactivity caused by Gag-3E4 complexes. The findings suggest this immunodominant epitope in Gag protein, which is associated with VH4-59 germline gene usage, may induce a high level of B cells that encode binding but non-functional antibodies that occupy significant repertoire space following HIV infection. The studies define an additional specific molecular mechanism in the immune distraction activity of the HIV virion.
BACKGROUND - Despite the extensive genetic diversity of HIV-1, viral evolution in response to immune selective pressures follows broadly predictable mutational patterns. Sites and pathways of Human Leukocyte-Antigen (HLA)-associated polymorphisms in HIV-1 have been identified through the analysis of population-level data, but the full extent of immune escape pathways remains incompletely characterized. Here, in the largest analysis of HIV-1 subtype B sequences undertaken to date, we identify HLA-associated polymorphisms in the three HIV-1 proteins most commonly considered in cellular-based vaccine strategies. Results are organized into protein-wide escape maps illustrating the sites and pathways of HLA-driven viral evolution.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS - HLA-associated polymorphisms were identified in HIV-1 Gag, Pol and Nef in a multicenter cohort of >1500 chronically subtype-B infected, treatment-naïve individuals from established cohorts in Canada, the USA and Western Australia. At q< or =0.05, 282 codons commonly mutating under HLA-associated immune pressures were identified in these three proteins. The greatest density of associations was observed in Nef (where close to 40% of codons exhibited a significant HLA association), followed by Gag then Pol (where approximately 15-20% of codons exhibited HLA associations), confirming the extensive impact of immune selection on HIV evolution and diversity. Analysis of HIV codon covariation patterns identified over 2000 codon-codon interactions at q< or =0.05, illustrating the dense and complex networks of linked escape and secondary/compensatory mutations.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE - The immune escape maps and associated data are intended to serve as a user-friendly guide to the locations of common escape mutations and covarying codons in HIV-1 subtype B, and as a resource facilitating the systematic identification and classification of immune escape mutations. These resources should facilitate research in HIV epitope discovery and host-pathogen co-evolution, and are relevant to the continued search for an effective CTL-based AIDS vaccine.
Lentiviruses, including human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), typically encode fusion glycoproteins with long cytoplasmic tails (CTs). We previously reported that immature HIV-1 particles are inhibited for fusion with target cells by a mechanism requiring the 152-amino-acid CT of gp41. The gp41 CT was also shown to mediate the detergent-resistant association of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein complex with immature HIV-1 particles, indicating that the gp41 CT forms a stable complex with Gag in immature virions. In the present study, we analyzed the effects of progressive truncations and point mutations in the gp41 CT on the fusion of mature and immature HIV-1 particles with target cells. We also determined the effects of these mutations on the detergent-resistant association of gp41 with immature HIV-1 particles. Removal of the C-terminal 28 amino acids relieved the dependence of HIV-1 fusion on maturation. However, a mutant Env protein lacking this region remained associated with immature HIV-1 particles treated with nonionic detergent. Further mutational analysis of the C-terminal region of gp41 revealed two specific sequences required for maturation-dependent HIV-1 fusion. Collectively, our results demonstrate that the extreme C terminus of gp41 plays a key role in coupling HIV-1 fusion competence to virion maturation. They further indicate that the stable association of gp41 with Gag in immature virions is not sufficient for inhibition of immature HIV-1 particle fusion.
The compound 3-O-(3',3'-dimethylsuccinyl)-betulinic acid (DSB) potently and specifically inhibits human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) replication by delaying the cleavage of the CA-SP1 junction in Gag, leading to impaired maturation of the viral core. In this study, we investigated HIV-1 resistance to DSB by analyzing HIV-1 mutants encoding a variety of individual amino acid substitutions in the CA-SP1 cleavage site. Three of the substitutions were lethal to HIV-1 replication owing to a deleterious effect on particle assembly. The remaining mutants exhibited a range of replication efficiencies; however, each mutant was capable of replicating in the presence of concentrations of DSB that effectively inhibited wild-type HIV-1. Mutations conferring resistance to DSB also led to impaired binding of the compound to immature HIV-1 virions and loss of DSB-mediated inhibition of cleavage of Gag. Surprisingly, two of the DSB-resistant mutants retained an intermediate ability to bind the compound, suggesting that binding of DSB to immature HIV-1 particles may not be sufficient for antiviral activity. Overall, our results indicate that Gag amino acids L363 and A364 are critical for inhibition of HIV-1 replication by DSB and suggest that these residues form key contacts with the drug in the context of the assembling HIV-1 particle. These results have implications for the design of and screening for novel inhibitors of HIV-1 maturation.
The Gag protein of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) associates with the envelope protein complex during virus assembly. The available evidence indicates that this interaction involves recognition of the gp41 cytoplasmic tail (CT) by the matrix protein (MA) region of Pr55(Gag). Here we show that substitution of Asp for Leu at position 49 (L49D) in MA results in a specific reduction in particle-associated gp120 without affecting the levels of gp41. Mutant virions were markedly reduced in single-cycle infectivity despite a relatively modest defect in fusion with target cells. Studies with HIV-1 particles containing decreased levels of envelope proteins suggested that the L49D mutation also inhibits a postentry step in infection. Truncation of the gp41 tail, or pseudotyping by vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein, restored both the fusion and infectivity of L49D mutant virions to wild-type levels. Truncation of gp41 also resulted in equivalent levels of gp120 on particles with and without the MA mutation and enhanced the replication of the L49D mutant virus in T cells. The impaired fusion and infectivity of L49D mutant particles were also complemented by a single point mutation in the gp41 CT that disrupted the tyrosine-containing endocytic motif. Our results suggest that an altered interaction between the MA domain of Gag and the gp41 cytoplasmic tail leads to dissociation of gp120 from gp41 during HIV-1 particle assembly, thus resulting in impaired fusion and infectivity.
The small molecule 3-O-(3',3'-dimethylsuccinyl)-betulinic acid (DSB) potently inhibits human immunodeficiency virus, type 1 (HIV-1) replication by interfering with proteolytic cleavage of the viral Gag protein at a specific site. Here we have demonstrated that the antiviral mechanism involves the association of DSB with Gag at a 1:1 stoichiometry within immature HIV-1 particles. The binding was specific, as mutations in Gag that confer resistance to DSB inhibited the association, which could be competed by DSB but not by the inactive compound betulinic acid. The addition of DSB to purified immature viral cores inhibited the cleavage of Gag at the CA-SP1 junction in vitro, thus reproducing the effect of the drug when present during maturation of HIV-1 particles. Based on these findings, we propose a model in which a trimer of DSB associates with the CA-SP1 junction of adjacent subunits within the Gag polymer. The model may explain the ability of highly similar compounds to specifically target the seemingly unrelated steps of HIV-1 maturation and virus entry.
Gag proteins direct the process of retroviral particle assembly and form the major protein constituents of the viral core. The matrix region of the HIV-1 Gag polyprotein plays a critical role in the transport of Gag to the plasma membrane assembly site. Recent evidence indicates that Gag trafficking to late endosomal compartments, including multivesicular bodies, occurs prior to viral particle budding from the plasma membrane. Here we demonstrate that the matrix region of HIV-1 Gag interacts directly with the delta subunit of the AP-3 complex, and that this interaction plays an important functional role in particle assembly. Disruption of this interaction eliminated Gag trafficking to multivesicular bodies and diminished HIV particle formation. These studies illuminate an early step in retroviral particle assembly and provide evidence that the trafficking of Gag to late endosomes is part of a productive particle assembly pathway.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection of simian cells is restricted at an early postentry step by host factors whose mechanism of action is unclear. These factors target the viral capsid protein (CA) and attenuate reverse transcription, suggesting that they bind to the HIV-1 core and interfere with its uncoating. To identify the relevant binding determinants in the capsid, we tested the capacity of viruses containing Gag cleavage site mutations and amino acid substitutions in CA to inhibit restriction of a wild type HIV-1 reporter virus in owl monkey cells. The results demonstrated that a stable, polymeric capsid and a correctly folded amino-terminal CA subunit interface are essential for saturation of host restriction in target cells by HIV-1 cores. We conclude that the owl monkey cellular restriction machinery recognizes a polymeric array of CA molecules, most likely via direct engagement of the HIV-1 capsid in target cells prior to uncoating.
Despite the effectiveness of currently available human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) therapies, a continuing need exists for new drugs to treat HIV-1 infection. We investigated the mechanism by which 3-O-[3',3'-dimethylsuccinyl]-betulinic acid (DSB) inhibits HIV-1 replication. DSB functions at a late stage of the virus life cycle but does not inhibit the HIV-1 protease in vitro or interfere with virus assembly or release. DSB specifically delays the cleavage of Gag between the capsid (CA) and p2, resulting in delayed formation of the mature viral core and reduced HIV-1 infectivity. Replication of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) was resistant to DSB; however, a chimeric SIV carrying CA-p2 sequences from HIV-1 was inhibited by the drug, indicating that susceptibility to DSB maps to the CA-p2 region of the HIV-1 Gag protein. A single point mutation at the CA-p2 cleavage site of HIV-1 conferred strong resistance to DSB, confirming the target of the drug. HIV-1 strains that are resistant to a variety of protease inhibitors were sensitive to DSB. These findings indicate that DSB specifically protects the CA-p2 cleavage site from processing by the viral protease during virion maturation, thereby revealing a novel mechanism for pharmacologic inhibition of HIV-1 replication.
Assembly of infectious human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) virions requires incorporation of the viral envelope glycoproteins gp41 and gp120. Several lines of evidence have suggested that the cytoplasmic tail of the transmembrane glycoprotein, gp41, associates with Pr55(Gag) in infected cells to facilitate the incorporation of HIV-1 envelope proteins into budding virions. However, direct evidence for an interaction between gp41 and Pr55(Gag) in HIV-1 particles has not been reported. To determine whether gp41 is associated with Pr55(Gag) in HIV-1 particles, viral cores were isolated from immature HIV-1 virions by sedimentation through detergent. The cores contained a major fraction of the gp41 that was present on untreated virions. Association of gp41 with cores required the presence of the gp41 cytoplasmic tail. In HIV-1 particles containing a functional protease, a mutation that prevents cleavage of Pr55(Gag) at the matrix-capsid junction was sufficient for the detergent-resistant association of gp41 with the isolated cores. In addition to gp41, a major fraction of virion-associated gp120 was also detected on immature HIV-1 cores. Isolation of cores under conditions known to disrupt lipid rafts resulted in the removal of a raft-associated protein incorporated into virions but not the HIV-1 envelope proteins. These results provide biochemical evidence for a stable interaction between Pr55(Gag) and the cytoplasmic tail of gp41 in immature HIV-1 particles. Moreover, findings in this study suggest that the interaction of Pr55(Gag) with gp41 may regulate the function of the envelope proteins during HIV-1 maturation.