Background: HIV-1 clade C (HIV-C) predominates worldwide, and anti-HIV-C vaccines are urgently needed. Neutralizing antibody (nAb) responses are considered important but have proved difficult to elicit. Although some current immunogens elicit antibodies that neutralize highly neutralization-sensitive (tier 1) HIV strains, most circulating HIVs exhibiting a less sensitive (tier 2) phenotype are not neutralized. Thus, both tier 1 and 2 viruses are needed for vaccine discovery in nonhuman primate models. Methodology/Principal Findings: We constructed a tier 1 simian-human immunodeficiency virus, SHIV-1157ipEL, by inserting an "early," recently transmitted HIV-C env into the SHIV-1157ipd3N4 backbone  encoding a "late" form of the same env, which had evolved in a SHIV-infected rhesus monkey (RM) with AIDS. SHIV-1157ipEL was rapidly passaged to yield SHIV-1157ipEL-p, which remained exclusively R5-tropic and had a tier 1 phenotype, in contrast to "late" SHIV-1157ipd3N4 (tier 2). After 5 weekly low-dose intrarectal exposures, SHIV-1157ipEL-p systemically infected 16 out of 17 RM with high peak viral RNA loads and depleted gut CD4+ T cells. SHIV-1157ipEL-p and SHIV-1157ipd3N4 env genes diverge mostly in V1/V2. Molecular modeling revealed a possible mechanism for the increased neutralization resistance of SHIV-1157ipd3N4 Env: V2 loops hindering access to the CD4 binding site, shown experimentally with nAb b12. Similar mutations have been linked to decreased neutralization sensitivity in HIV-C strains isolated from humans over time, indicating parallel HIV-C Env evolution in humans and RM. Conclusions/Significance: SHIV-1157ipEL-p, the first tier 1 R5 clade C SHIV, and SHIV-1157ipd3N4, its tier 2 counterpart, represent biologically relevant tools for anti-HIV-C vaccine development in primates.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)