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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Alteration of glycosylation renders HIV sensitive to inactivation by normal human serum.

Retroviruses from various mammalian species, excluding humans, are effectively inactivated in normal human serum (NHS). Recent studies have shown that NHS inactivation of retroviruses occurs through natural Ab recognition of a terminal glycosidic moiety on the viral envelope that is acquired during replication in the host cell. This carbohydrate structure (the alpha-galactosyl epitope) is expressed on the cells of most mammals, with the exception of humans and other Old World primates. In this study, NHS sensitivity of HIV was assessed following viral propagation in human cells that were manipulated to express the alpha-galactosyl epitope. HUT-78 cells were transduced with an exogenous alpha1-3-galactosyl transferase gene, which codes for the terminal glycosyl transferase responsible for generation of the alpha-galactosyl epitope. The transduced HUT-78 cells expressed high levels of the alpha-galactosyl epitope on their membrane surface, rendering them sensitive to killing in NHS. Similarly, HIV passaged through these cells acquired the alpha-galactosyl epitope in association with the envelope glycoprotein gp120 and was also effectively inactivated in NHS. Viral inactivation was abolished by the addition of a synthetic disaccharide that contains the alpha-galactosyl epitope, indicating that virolysis is mediated by anti-alpha-galactosyl natural Ab. These results demonstrate that, like other retroviruses bearing the alpha-galactosyl epitope, HIV modified to express this epitope is inactivated in NHS. Furthermore, these data suggest that expression of the alpha-galactosyl epitope on the surface of viruses may have implications in the interspecies transmission of such viruses to humans.[1]


  1. Alteration of glycosylation renders HIV sensitive to inactivation by normal human serum. Reed, D.J., Lin, X., Thomas, T.D., Birks, C.W., Tang, J., Rother, R.P. J. Immunol. (1997) [Pubmed]
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