A novel self-replicating chimeric lentivirus-like particle

J Virol. 2012 Jan;86(1):246-61. doi: 10.1128/JVI.05191-11. Epub 2011 Oct 19.


Successful live attenuated vaccines mimic natural exposure to pathogens without causing disease and have been successful against several viruses. However, safety concerns prevent the development of attenuated human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as a vaccine candidate. If a safe, replicating virus vaccine could be developed, it might have the potential to offer significant protection against HIV infection and disease. Described here is the development of a novel self-replicating chimeric virus vaccine candidate that is designed to provide natural exposure to a lentivirus-like particle and to incorporate the properties of a live attenuated virus vaccine without the inherent safety issues associated with attenuated lentiviruses. The genome from the alphavirus Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE) was modified to express SHIV89.6P genes encoding the structural proteins Gag and Env. Expression of Gag and Env from VEE RNA in primate cells led to the assembly of particles that morphologically and functionally resembled lentivirus virions and that incorporated alphavirus RNA. Infection of CD4⁺ cells with chimeric lentivirus-like particles was specific and productive, resulting in RNA replication, expression of Gag and Env, and generation of progeny chimeric particles. Further genome modifications designed to enhance encapsidation of the chimeric virus genome and to express an attenuated simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) protease for particle maturation improved the ability of chimeric lentivirus-like particles to propagate in cell culture. This study provides proof of concept for the feasibility of creating chimeric virus genomes that express lentivirus structural proteins and assemble into infectious particles for presentation of lentivirus immunogens in their native and functional conformation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Vaccines / genetics
  • AIDS Vaccines / immunology
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Chimera / genetics
  • Chimera / physiology*
  • Encephalitis Virus, Venezuelan Equine / genetics
  • Encephalitis Virus, Venezuelan Equine / physiology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Products, env / genetics
  • Gene Products, env / immunology
  • Gene Products, gag / genetics
  • Gene Products, gag / immunology
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Genetic Vectors / physiology*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus / genetics
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus / immunology
  • Virus Assembly
  • Virus Replication*


  • AIDS Vaccines
  • Gene Products, env
  • Gene Products, gag