Persistence of attenuated rev genes in a human immunodeficiency virus type 1-infected asymptomatic individual.
Iversen AK., Shpaer EG., Rodrigo AG., Hirsch MS., Walker BD., Sheppard HW., Merigan TC., Mullins JI.
With the goal of examining the functional diversity of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) env genes within the peripheral blood mononuclear cells of an asymptomatic individual, we substituted four complete env genes into the replication-competent NL4-3 provirus. Despite encoding full-length open reading frames for gp120 and gp41 and the second coding exon of tat and rev, each chimera was replication defective. Site-directed mutagenesis of codon 78 in the Rev activation domain (from a hitherto unique Ile to the subtype B consensus Leu) partially restored infectivity for two of three chimeras tested. Similarly, mutagenesis of rev codon 78 of NL4-3 from Leu to Ile partially attenuated this virus. Ile-78 was found in all 13 clones examined from samples taken from this asymptomatic subject 4.5 years after infection, including 9 from peripheral blood mononuclear cells and 4 from a virus isolate, as well as 4 additional clones each from peripheral blood mononuclear cells sampled 37 and 51 months later. We next examined conservation of the Rev activation domain within and among long-term survivors (LTS) and patients with AIDS, as well as T-cell-line-adapted strains of HIV-1. Putative attenuating mutations were found in a minority of sequences from all five LTS and two of four patients with AIDS. Of the 11 T-cell-line-adapted viruses examined, none had these changes. Among and within LTS virus population had marginally higher levels of diversity in Rev than in Env; patients with AIDS had similar levels of diversity in the two reading frames; and T-cell-line-adapted viruses had higher levels of diversity in Env. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that asymptomatic individuals harbor attenuated variants of HIV-1 which correlate with and contribute to their lack of disease progression.