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vpr deletion mutant of simian immunodeficiency virus induces AIDS in rhesus monkeys.

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  • Research Article
  • Medicine


In previous experiments, animals infected with SIVmac239 containing a point mutation in the vpr and nef genes developed AIDS-like symptoms after early reversion of the vpr and nef genes. Here we show that two animals in which the nef gene but not the vpr gene had reverted in the first few months did not develop disease during a 3-year observation period even after reversion to a functional vpr gene 70 weeks postinfection. To study the influence of a stable vpr mutation on virus load and pathogenesis, a 43-bp deletion was introduced into the vpr gene of SIVmac239on, a nef-open mutant of SIVmac239. Four rhesus monkeys were inoculated with the vpr deletion mutant (SIV delta vpr), and two control animals were infected with SIVmac239on. Both control animals had persistent antigenemia, high cell-associated virus loads, and elevated neopterin levels. They had to be euthanized 20 and 30 weeks postinfection because of AIDS-related symptoms. However, all four rhesus monkeys inoculated with SIV delta vpr showed only transiently detectable antigenemia. The cell-associated virus loads were high in three of the four animals. Two animals with AIDS-like symptoms had to be euthanized 71 and 73 weeks postinfection. The two remaining monkeys infected with SIV delta vpr were still alive 105 weeks postinfection. In contrast to the SIVmac239on-infected animals, SIV delta vpr-infected animals had strong humoral immune responses and intermittent cellular immune responses to SIV antigens. Our data show that a functional vpr gene is not necessary for pathogenesis. However, vpr-deficient SIVmac239 variants might be slightly attenuated, allowing some animals to resist progression to disease for an extended period of time.

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