Background: Human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV) -1 and -2 are deltaretroviruses that infect a wide range of cells. Glut1, the major vertebrate glucose transporter, has been shown to be the HTLV Env receptor. While it is well established that the extracellular surface component (SU) of the HTLV envelope glycoprotein (Env) harbors all of the determinants of interaction with the receptor, identification of SU subdomains that are necessary and sufficient for interaction with the receptor, as well as critical amino acids therein, remain to be precisely defined. Although highly divergent in the rest of their genomes, HTLV and murine leukemia virus (MLV) Env appear to be related and based on homologous motifs between the HTLV and MLV SU, we derived chimeric HTLV/MLV Env and soluble HTLV-1 and -2 truncated amino terminal SU subdomains.
Results: Using these SU constructs, we found that the 183 and 178 amino terminal residues of the HTLV-1 and -2 Env, respectively, were sufficient to efficiently bind target cells of different species. Binding resulted from bona fide interaction with the HTLV receptor as isolated SU subdomains specifically interfered with HTLV Env-mediated binding, cell fusion, and cell-free as well as cell-to-cell infection. Therefore, the HTLV receptor-binding domain (RBD) lies in the amino terminus of the SU, immediately upstream of a central immunodominant proline rich region (Env residues 180 to 205), that we show to be dispensible for receptor-binding and interference. Moreover, we identified a highly conserved tyrosine residue at position 114 of HTLV-1 Env, Tyr114, as critical for receptor-binding and subsequent interference to cell-to-cell fusion and infection. Finally, we observed that residues in the vicinity of Tyr114 have lesser impact on receptor binding and had various efficiency in interference to post-binding events.
Conclusions: The first 160 residues of the HTLV-1 and -2 mature cleaved SU fold as autonomous domains that contain all the determinants required for binding the HTLV receptor.