Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were experimentally infected with strains of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) derived from SIV(mac)239 lacking vpr, vpx, nr both vpr and vpx genes. These auxiliary genes are not required for virus replication in cultured cells but are consistently conserved within the SiV(mac)/human immunodeficiency virus type 2/SIV(sm) group of primate lentiviruses. All four rhesus monkeys infected with the vpr deletion mutant showed an early spike in plasma antigenemia, maintained high virus burdens, exhibited declines in CD4+ lymphocyte concentrations, and had significant changes in lymph node morphology, and two have died to date with AIDS. The behavior of the vpr deletion mutant was indistinguishable from that of the parental, wild-type virus. Rhesus monkeys infected with the vpx deletion mutant showed lower levels of plasma antigenemia, lower virus burdens, and delayed declines in CD4+ lymphocyte concentrations but nonetheless progressed with AIDS tn a terminal stage. The vpr + vpx double mutant was severely attenuated, with much lower virus burdens and no evidence of disease progression. These and other results indicate that vpr provides only a slight facilitating advantage for wild-type SIV(mac) replication in vivo. Thus, progression to AIDS and death can occur in the absence of a gene for vpr or vpx.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science