To study HIV-1 envelope-mediated syncytium formation we have amplified, cloned, expressed, and sequenced individual envelope genes from a set of eight biological HIV-1 clones. These clones were obtained from two patients and display either a syncytium-inducing (SI) or nonsyncytium-inducing (NSI) phenotype. Upon expression through recombinant vaccinia virus, individual envelope gene products display heterogeneous syncytium-inducing capacities which reflect the phenotype of the parental biological HIV-1 clones in all cases. For the eight biological HIV-1 clones presented here, variation of the envelope gene alone is sufficient to explain the observed variable syncytium-inducing capacity of the respective parental viruses. In addition we determined the complete nucleotide sequence of these envelope genes. The predicted amino acid sequence revealed a considerable amount of variation located mainly in the previously denominated variable regions. In various regions of envelope genes obtained from the same patient, phenotype associated amino acid variation was found. This phenotype associated amino acid variation however, is not conserved between the two sets of envelope genes derived from different patients. Four envelope sequences derived from clones obtained from one patient showed phenotype-associated amino acid variation in the fusion domain. Sequencing of 12 additional fusion domains revealed that this same variation is found in four additional clones. However, a functional test performed on recombinant vaccinia expressing mutant envelope genes showed that this observed fusion domain variation does not contribute to the variation in syncytium-inducing capacity of the envelope gene product.

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AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Andeweg, A., Groenink, M., Leeflang, P., de Goede, R. E. Y., Osterhaus, A., Tersmette, M., & Bosch, M. (1992). Genetic and functional analysis of a set of HIV-1 envelope genes obtained from biological clones with varying syncytium-inducing capacities. AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, 8(10), 1803–1813. Retrieved from