PloS one

Systematic analysis of intracellular trafficking motifs located within the cytoplasmic domain of simian immunodeficiency virus glycoprotein gp41.

PMID 25479017


Previous studies have shown that truncation of the cytoplasmic-domain sequences of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) envelope glycoprotein (Env) just prior to a potential intracellular-trafficking signal of the sequence YIHF can strongly increase Env protein expression on the cell surface, Env incorporation into virions and, at least in some contexts, virion infectivity. Here, all 12 potential intracellular-trafficking motifs (YXXΦ or LL/LI/IL) in the gp41 cytoplasmic domain (gp41CD) of SIVmac239 were analyzed by systematic mutagenesis. One single and 7 sequential combination mutants in this cytoplasmic domain were characterized. Cell-surface levels of Env were not significantly affected by any of the mutations. Most combination mutations resulted in moderate 3- to 8-fold increases in Env incorporation into virions. However, mutation of all 12 potential sites actually decreased Env incorporation into virions. Variant forms with 11 or 12 mutated sites exhibited 3-fold lower levels of inherent infectivity, while none of the other single or combination mutations that were studied significantly affected the inherent infectivity of SIVmac239. These minor effects of mutations in trafficking motifs form a stark contrast to the strong increases in cell-surface expression and Env incorporation which have previously been reported for large truncations of gp41CD. Surprisingly, mutation of potential trafficking motifs in gp41CD of SIVmac316, which differs by only one residue from gp41CD of SIVmac239, effectively recapitulated the increases in Env incorporation into virions observed with gp41CD truncations. Our results indicate that increases in Env surface expression and virion incorporation associated with truncation of SIVmac239 gp41CD are not fully explained by loss of consensus trafficking motifs.