Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 2778881
J. Virol. 1989 Oct;63(10):4395-403
A striking characteristic of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and of the human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) is the presence of a nonsense mutation in the env gene resulting in the synthesis of a truncated transmembrane protein lacking the cytoplasmic domain. By mutagenesis of an infectious molecular clone of SIVmac142, we investigated the function of the cytoplasmic domain and the significance of the env nonsense mutation. When the nonsense codon (TAG) was replaced by a glutamine codon (CAG), the virus infected HUT78 cells with markedly delayed kinetics. This negative effect was counterselected in vitro as reversion of the slow phenotype frequently occurred. The sequencing of one revertant revealed the presence of a new stop codon three nucleotides 5′ to the original mutation. Deletions or an additional nonsense mutation introduced 3′ to the original stop codon did not modify SIV infectivity. In contrast, the same deletions or nonsense mutation introduced in the clone in which the stop codon was replaced by CAG abolished infectivity. These results indicated that the envelope domain located 3′ to the stop codon is not necessary for in vitro replication. However, the presence of this domain in SIV transmembrane protein leads to a reduced infectivity. This negative effect might correspond to a function controlling the rate of spread of the virus during in vivo infection.