International audienceBACKGROUND: HIV-2, which was transmitted to humans from a distant primate species (sooty mangabey), differs remarkably from HIV-1 in its infectivity, transmissibility and pathogenicity. We have tested the possibility that a greater susceptibility of HIV-2 capsid (CA) to the human restriction factor TRIM5alpha (hTRIM5alpha) could contribute to these differences. RESULTS: We constructed recombinant clones expressing CA from a variety of HIV-2 viruses in the context of HIV-1 NL4-3-luciferase. CA sequences were amplified from the plasma of HIV-2 infected patients, including 8 subtype A and 7 subtype B viruses. CA from 6 non-epidemic HIV-2 subtypes, 3 HIV-2 CRF01_AB recombinants and 4 SIVsmm viruses were also tested. Susceptibility to hTRIM5alpha was measured by comparing single-cycle infectivity in human target cells expressing hTRIM5alpha to that measured in cells in which hTRIM5alpha activity was inhibited by overexpression of hTRIM5gamma.The insertion of HIV-2 CA sequences in the context of HIV-1 did not affect expression and maturation of the HIV-2 CA protein. The level of susceptibility hTRIM5alpha expressed by viruses carrying HIV-2 CA sequences was up to 9-fold higher than that of HIV-1 NL4-3 and markedly higher than a panel of primary HIV-1 CA sequences. This phenotype was found both for viruses carrying CA from primary HIV-2 sequences and viruses carrying CA from laboratory-adapted HIV-2 clones. High hTRIM5alpha susceptibility was found in all HIV-2 subtypes. In this series of viruses, susceptibility to hTRIM5alpha was not significantly affected by the presence of a proline at position 119 or by the number of prolines at positions 119, 159 or 178 in HIV-2 CA. No significant correlation was found between HIV-2 viremia and sensitivity to hTRIM5alpha. CONCLUSIONS: HIV-2 capsid sequences expressed high levels of susceptibility to hTRIM5alpha. This property, common to all HIV-2 sequences tested, may contribute in part to the lower replication and pathogenicity of this virus in humans
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