A small number of persons infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) remain clinically and immunologically healthy for more than a decade after infection. Recent reports suggest that these individuals may be infected with an attenuated strain of HIV-1; however, a common genetic basis for viral attenuation has not been found in all cases. In the present study, we examined the functional properties of the HIV-1 env genes from six long-term survivors. env clones were generated by PCR amplification of proviral env sequences, followed by cloning of the amplified regions into expression vectors. Eight to ten clones from each subject were screened by transient transfection for expression of the envelope precursor glycoprotein, gp160. Those clones expressing gp160 were then cotransfected with an HIV-1 luciferase reporter vector, pNL4-3Env(-)LUC(+) and evaluated for their ability to mediate infection of phytohemagglutinin-activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells in single-cycle infectivity assays. Clones expressing gp160 were identified for all six long-term survivors, indicating the presence of proviral env genes with intact open reading frames. For two subjects, D and DH, the encoded envelope glycoproteins yielded high levels of luciferase activity when pseudotyped onto HIV-1 virions and tested in single-cycle infectivity assays. In contrast, envelope glycoproteins cloned from four other long-term survivors were poorly processed and failed to mediate infection. Sequencing of the gp120/41 cleavage site and conserved gp41 cysteine residues of these clones did not reveal any obvious mutations to explain the functional defects. The functional activity of env clones from long-term survivors D and DH was comparable to that seen with several primary HIV-1 env genes cloned from individuals with disease progression and AIDS. These results suggest that the long-term survival of subjects D and DH is not associated with overt functional defects in env; however, functional abnormalities in env may contribute to maintaining a long-term asymptomatic state in the other four cases we studied
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.