Vpr-GFP virion particle identifies HIV-infected targets and preserves HIV-1Vpr function in macrophages and T-cells

DNA Cell Biol. 2000 Mar;19(3):179-88. doi: 10.1089/104454900314564.


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is known for its ability to infect immune cells, including T-cells and macrophages. The 96-amino acid Vpr, a virion-associated protein, is essential for viral replication in monocytes/macrophages and increases viral replication in primary and established T-cell lines. The Vpr protein regulates a number of host cellular events, including proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, cytokine production, and NF-kappaB-mediated transcription. Most of these functions have been analyzed using either endogenous Vpr protein or cells transfected with a Vpr expression plasmid. We developed a lentiviral vector complemented with a Vpr expression plasmid that results in viral particles packaged with Vpr protein. To facilitate identification of the target cells infected with the particles containing Vpr, we fused green fluorescent protein (GFP) with the Vpr open reading frame and analyzed the biology of this novel particle. Vpr itself is expressed as a 14-kDa protein; however, in vitro translation of the pVpr-GFP plasmid resulted in the expression of 39-kDa fusion protein. The fusion molecule exhibited the same activity in arresting the cell cycle in G2 as does the wildtype Vpr molecule. Subcellular localization of Vpr and Vpr-GFP by immunofluoresence in human and murine cell lines indicated that Vpr by itself or with the reporter GFP showed a perinuclear staining pattern. Replication kinetics showed no significant difference between Vpr-GFP and native complemented pseudovirus replication in a single-round infectivity assay. A flow cytometry analysis of peripheral blood lymphocytes and macrophages infected with Vpr-GFP-packaged virions and selected by GFP showed 56.7% infectivity for lymphocytes and 84.6% infectivity for macrophages. Additional analysis of CD24 (HSA)-positive cells showed infection of CD4+ cells, macrophages, and, importantly, dendritic cells. This system will allow us to identify specific cell populations including antigen-presenting cells, and allow quantitative analysis of the precise effect of Vpr on both target and bystander cells in vitro as well as in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Products, vpr / biosynthesis
  • Gene Products, vpr / genetics*
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Virion / genetics
  • Virion / physiology
  • vpr Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus


  • Gene Products, vpr
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • vpr Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins