Importance of the V1/V2 loop region of simian-human immunodeficiency virus envelope glycoprotein gp120 in determining the strain specificity of the neutralizing antibody response

J Virol. 2008 Nov;82(22):11054-65. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01341-08. Epub 2008 Sep 3.


Plasma samples from individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) are known to be highly strain specific in their ability to neutralize HIV-1 infectivity. Such plasma samples exhibit significant neutralizing activity against autologous HIV-1 isolates but typically exhibit little or no activity against heterologous strains, although some cross-neutralizing activity can develop late in infection. Monkeys infected with the simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) clone DH12 generated antibodies that neutralized SHIV DH12, but not SHIV KB9. Conversely, antibodies from monkeys infected with the SHIV clone KB9 neutralized SHIV KB9, but not SHIV DH12. To investigate the role of the variable loops of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein gp120 in determining this strain specificity, variable loops 1 and 2 (V1/V2), V3, or V4 were exchanged individually or in combination between SHIV DH12 and SHIV KB9. Despite the fact that both parental viruses exhibited significant infectivity and good replication in the cell lines examined, 3 of the 10 variable-loop chimeras exhibited such poor infectivity that they could not be used further for neutralization assays. These results indicate that a variable loop that is functional in the context of one particular envelope background will not necessarily function within another. The remaining seven replication-competent chimeras allowed unambiguous assignment of the sequences principally responsible for the strain specificity of the neutralizing activity present in SHIV-positive plasma. Exchange of the V1/V2 loop sequences conferred a dominant loss of sensitivity to neutralization by autologous plasma and a gain of sensitivity to neutralization by heterologous plasma. Substitution of V3 or V4 had little or no effect on the sensitivity to neutralization. These data demonstrate that the V1/V2 region of HIV-1 gp120 is principally responsible for the strain specificity of the neutralizing antibody response in monkeys infected with these prototypic SHIVs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • HIV Antibodies / immunology*
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp120 / genetics
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp120 / immunology*
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / immunology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neutralization Tests
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus / genetics
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus / immunology*


  • HIV Antibodies
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp120