Current antiretroviral therapy (ART) is not sufficient to completely suppress disease progression in the CNS, as indicated by the rising incidence of HIV-1–associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) among infected individuals on ART. It is not clear why some HIV-1–infected patients develop HAND, despite effective repression of viral replication in the circulation. SIV-infected nonhuman primate models are widely used to dissect the mechanisms of viral pathogenesis in the CNS. Here, we identified 4 amino acid substitutions in the cytoplasmic tail of viral envelope glycoprotein gp41 of the neurovirulent virus SIVsm804E that enhance replication in macrophages and associate with enhanced antagonism of the host restriction factor BM stromal cell antigen 2 (BST-2). Rhesus macaques were inoculated with a variant of the parental virus SIVsmE543-3 that had been engineered to contain the 4 amino acid substitutions present in gp41 of SIVsm804E. Compared with WT virus–infected controls, animals infected with mutant virus exhibited higher viral load in cerebrospinal fluid. Together, these results are consistent with a potential role for BST-2 in the CNS microenvironment and suggest that BST-2 antagonists may serve as a possible target for countermeasures against HAND.
Kenta Matsuda, Chia-Yen Chen, Sonya Whitted, Elena Chertova, David J. Roser, Fan Wu, Ronald J. Plishka, Ilnour Ourmanov, Alicia Buckler-White, Jeffrey D. Lifson, Klaus Strebel, Vanessa M. Hirsch