To replicate in a new host, lentiviruses must adapt to exploit required host factors and evade species-specific antiviral proteins. Understanding how host protein variation drives lentivirus adaptation allowed us to expand the host range of HIV-1 to pigtail macaques. We have previously derived a viral swarm (in the blood of infected animals) that can cause AIDS in this new host. To further exploit this reagent, we generated infectious molecular clones (IMCs) from the viral swarm. We identified clones with high replicative capacity in pigtail peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in vitro and used in vivo replication to select an individual IMC, named stHIV-A19 (for simian tropic HIV-1 clone A19), which recapitulated the phenotype obtained with the viral swarm. Adaptation of HIV-1 in macaques led to the acquisition of amino acid changes in viral proteins, such as capsid (CA), that are rarely seen in HIV-1-infected humans. Using stHIV-A19, we show that these CA changes confer a partial resistance to the host cell inhibitor Mx2 from pigtail macaques, but that complete resistance is associated with a fitness defect. Adaptation of HIV-1 to a new host will lead to a more accurate animal model and a better understanding of virus-host interactions.
Keywords: HIV-1; animal models; restriction factors.