The so-called “nonessential” genes of primate lentiviruses can be deleted without abrogating the ability of virus to replicate under at least some cell culture conditions. In SIVmac, these genes are vif, vpx, vpr, and nef. Sequences in the upstream region of U3 in the LTR have also been shown to be dispensable for replication in cell culture. We report here the construction and characterization of a panel of 40 single and combination deletion mutants derived from the pathogenic molecular clone SIVmac239. Deletion of the vpr gene caused little or no change in the growth properties of SIVmac239 in CEMx174 cells, in rhesus monkey peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), or in rhesus monkey alveolar macrophages. Deletion of the vpx gene resulted in a greatly reduced rate of replication of the virus in the primary PBMC and macrophage cultures, but no significant reduction in replication of the virus in CEMx174 cells. Deletion of the vpx gene appeared to have a greater effect on virus replication in macrophages than in PBMCs. Deletion of the vif gene caused a dramatic reduction in replication in all cell types tested. However, even Δ5, which contains deletions in all five targeted regions (vif, vpx, vpr, nef, and U3), can still replicate in CEMx174 cells albeit with greatly delayed kinetics. Deletion of nef, alone or in combination with deletions in U3 and vpr, had no observable effect on replication of the virus in any of the cells tested. Because the disease induced by the parental SIVmac239 clone in rhesus monkeys has been well characterized and is remarkably similar to AIDS in humans, this collection of mutants will be useful for relating in vitro properties and gene function with in vivo pathogenic potential.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases