Dual pathways of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) envelope glycoprotein trafficking modulate the selective exclusion of uncleaved oligomers from virions

Date Published:

Nov 4


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) envelope glycoprotein (Env) trimer is transported through the secretory pathway to the infected cell surface and onto virion particles. In the Golgi, the gp160 Env precursor is modified by complex sugars and proteolytically cleaved to produce the mature functional Env trimer, which resists antibody neutralization. We observed mostly uncleaved gp160 and smaller amounts of cleaved gp120 and gp41 Envs on the surface of HIV-1-infected or Env-expressing cells; however, cleaved Envs were relatively enriched in virions and virus-like particles (VLPs). This relative enrichment of cleaved Env in VLPs was observed for wild-type Envs, for Envs lacking the cytoplasmic tail and for CD4-independent, conformationally flexible Envs. On the cell surface, we identified three distinct populations of Envs: 1) the cleaved Env was transported through the Golgi, was modified by complex glycans, formed trimers that crosslinked efficiently, and was recognized by broadly neutralizing antibodies; 2) a small fraction of Env modified by complex carbohydrates escaped cleavage in the Golgi; and 3) the larger population of uncleaved Env lacked complex carbohydrates, crosslinked into diverse oligomeric forms, and was recognized by poorly neutralizing antibodies. This last group of more "open" Env oligomers reached the cell surface in the presence of Brefeldin A, apparently bypassing the Golgi apparatus. Relative to Envs transported through the Golgi, these uncleaved Envs were counterselected for virion incorporation. By employing two pathways for Env transport to the surface of infected cells, HIV-1 can misdirect host antibody responses towards conformationally flexible, uncleaved Env without compromising virus infectivity.IMPORTANCE The envelope glycoprotein (Env) trimers on the surface of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) mediate the entry of the virus into host cells and serve as targets for neutralizing antibodies. The cleaved, functional Env is incorporated into virus particles from the surface of the infected cell. We found that an uncleaved form of Env is transported to the cell surface by an unconventional route, but this non-functional Env is mostly excluded from the virus. Thus, only one of the pathways by which Env is transported to the surface of infected cells results in efficient incorporation into virus particles, potentially allowing the uncleaved Env to act as a decoy to the host immune system without compromising virus infectivity.



Last updated on 01/12/2021