Determinants of HIV-1 CD4-Independent Brain Adaptation

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Abstract

Background:

HIV-1 is known to adapt to the local environment in its usage of receptors, and it can become CD4 independent in the brain where the receptor is scarce. This adaptation is through amino acid variations, but the patterns of such variation are not yet well understood. Given that infection of long-lived CD4-low and CD4-negative cells in anatomical compartments such as the brain expands cell tropism in vivo and may serve as potential viral reservoirs that pose challenge for HIV eradication, understanding the evolution to CD4 independence and envelope conformation associated with infection in the absence of CD4 will not only broaden our insights into HIV pathogenesis but may guide functional cure strategies as well.

Methods:

We characterize, by site-directed mutagenesis, neutralization assay, and structural analysis, a pair of CD4-dependent (cl2) and CD4-independent (cl20) envelopes concurrently isolated from the cerebral spinal fluid of an SHIV-infected macaque with neurological AIDS and with minimum sequence differences.

Results:

Residues different between cl2 and cl20 are mapped to the V1V2 and surrounding regions. Mutations of these residues in cl2 increased its CD4 independence in infection, and the effects are cumulative and likely structural.

Conclusions:

Our data suggested that the determinants of CD4 independence in vivo mapped principally to V1V2 of gp120 that can destabilize the apex of the envelope spike, with an additional change in V4 that abrogated a potential N-linked glycan to facilitate movement of the V1V2 domain and further expose the coreceptor-binding site.

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