Substitutions in Nef That Uncouple Tetherin and SERINC5 Antagonism Impair Simian Immunodeficiency Virus Replication in Primary Rhesus Macaque Lymphocytes

J Virol. 2022 Jun 8;96(11):e0017622. doi: 10.1128/jvi.00176-22. Epub 2022 May 10.


Most simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) use Nef to counteract restriction by the tetherin proteins of their nonhuman primate hosts. In addition to counteracting tetherin, SIV Nef has a number of other functions, including the downmodulation of CD3, CD4, and major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC I) molecules from the surface of SIV-infected cells and the enhancement of viral infectivity by preventing the incorporation of SERINC5 into virions. Although these activities require different surfaces of Nef, they can be difficult to separate because of their dependence on similar interactions with AP-1 or AP-2 for clathrin-mediated endocytosis. We previously observed extensive overlap of the SIV Nef residues required for counteracting tetherin and SERINC5. Here, we define substitutions in Nef that separate anti-tetherin activity from SERINC5 antagonism and other activities of Nef. This information was used to engineer an infectious molecular clone of SIV (SIVmac239nefSA) that is sensitive to tetherin but retains CD3, CD4, MHC I, and SERINC5 downmodulation. In primary rhesus macaque CD4+ T cells, SIVmac239nefSA exhibits impaired replication compared to wild-type SIVmac239 under conditions of interferon-induced upregulation of tetherin. These results demonstrate that tetherin antagonism can be separated from other Nef functions and that resistance to tetherin is essential for optimal replication in primary CD4+ T cells. IMPORTANCE Tetherin is an interferon-inducible transmembrane protein that prevents the detachment of enveloped viruses from infected cells by physically tethering nascent virions to cellular membranes. SIV Nef downmodulates simian tetherin to overcome this restriction in nonhuman primate hosts. Nef also enhances virus infectivity by preventing the incorporation of SERINC5 into virions and contributes to immune evasion by downmodulating other proteins from the cell surface. To assess the contribution of tetherin antagonism to virus replication, we engineered an infectious molecular clone of SIV with substitutions in Nef that uncouple tetherin antagonism from other Nef functions. These substitutions impaired virus replication in interferon-treated macaque CD4+ T cells, revealing the impact of tetherin on SIV replication under physiological conditions in primary CD4+ lymphocytes.

Keywords: Nef; SERINC5; human immunodeficiency virus; infectivity; restriction factors; simian immunodeficiency virus; tetherin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Stromal Antigen 2* / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Gene Products, nef* / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism
  • Interferons / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes / virology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Membrane Proteins* / metabolism
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus* / physiology
  • Virus Replication*


  • Bone Marrow Stromal Antigen 2
  • Gene Products, nef
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Interferons