Repair and evolution of nef in vivo modulates simian immunodeficiency virus virulence

Adrian M. Whatmore*, Nicola Cook, Graham Hall, Sally Sharpe, Erling W. Rud, Martin P. Cranage

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

161 Citations (Scopus)


Experimental evidence from the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) model of AIDS has shown that the nef gene is critical in the pathogenesis of AIDS. Consequently, nef is of considerable interest in both antiviral drug and vaccine development. Preliminary findings in two rhesus macaques indicated that a deletion of only 12 bp found in the overlapping nef/3' long terminal repeat (LTR) region (9501 to 9512) of the SIVmacC8 molecular clone was associated with reduced virus isolation frequency. We show that this deletion can be repaired in vivo by a sequence duplication event and that sequence evolution continues until the predicted amino acid sequence of the repair is virtually indistinguishable from that of the virulent wild type. These changes occurred concomitantly with reversion to virulence, evidenced by a high virus isolation frequency and load, decline in anti-p27 antibody, substantial reduction in the CD4/CD8 ratio, and development of opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. These findings dearly illustrate the capacity for repair of small attenuating deletions in primate lentiviruses and also strongly suggest that the region from 9501 to 9512 in the SIV nef/3' LTR region is of biological relevance. In addition, the ability of attenuated virus to revert to virulence raises fundamental questions regarding the nature of superinfection immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5117-5123
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1995


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