Determinants of syncytium formation in microglia by human immunodeficiency virus type 1: Role of the V1/V2 domains

Joseph T.C. Shieh, Julio Martín, Gordon Baltuch, Michael H. Malim, Francisco González-Scarano

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48 Scopus citations


Microglia are the main reservoir for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in the central nervous system (CNS), and multinucleated giant cells, the result of fusion of HIV-1-infected microglia and brain macrophages, are the neuropathologic hallmark of HIV dementia. One potential explanation for the formation of syncytia is viral adaptation for these CD4+ CNS cells. HIV- 1(BORI-15), a virus adapted to growth in microglia by sequential passage in vitro, mediates high levels of fusion and replicates more efficiently in microglia and monocyte-derived-macrophages than its unpassaged parent (J. M. Strizki, A. V. Albright, H. Sheng, M. O'Connor, L. Perrin, and F. Gonzalez- Scarano, J. Virol. 70:7654-7662, 1996). Since the interaction between the viral envelope glycoprotein and CD4 and the chemokine receptor mediates fusion and plays a key role in tropism, we have analyzed the HIV-1(BORI-15) env as a fusogen and in recombinant and pseudotyped viruses. Its syncytium- forming phenotype is not the result of a switch in coreceptor use but rather of the HIV-1(BORI-15) envelope-mediated fusion of CD4+CCR5+ cells with greater efficiency than that of its parental strain, either by itself or in the context of a recombinant virus. Genetic analysis indicated that the syncytium-forming phenotype was due to four discrete amino acid differences in V1/V2, with a single-amino-acid change between the parent and the adapted virus (E153G) responsible for the majority of the effect. Additionally, HIV- 1(BORI-15) env-pseudotyped viruses were less sensitive to decreases in the levels of CD4 on transfected 293T cells, leading to the hypothesis that the differences in V1/V2 alter the interaction between this envelope and CD4 or CCR5, or both. In sum, the characterization of the envelope of HIV-1(BORI- 15), a highly fusogenic glycoprotein with genetic determinants in V1/V2, may lead to a better understanding of the relationship between HIV replication and syncytium formation in the CNS and of the importance of this region of gp120 in the interaction with CD4 and CCR5.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)693-701
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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