Journal of virology 2017 07 26() pii 10.1128/JVI.01228-17
A highly conserved threonine near the C-terminus of gp120 of HIV and SIV was investigated for its contributions to envelope protein function and virion infectivity. When this highly conserved Thr residue was substituted with anything other than serine (the other amino acid that can accept O-glycosylation), the resulting virus was non-infectious. We found that this Thr was critical for the association of gp120 with the virion and that amino acid substitution increased the amount of dissociated gp120 in the cell culture supernatant. When HIV virions were generated in cells overexpressing polypeptide N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase 1 (GalNAcT1), viral infectivity was increased by 3-fold compared to virus produced in wildtype HEK293T cells; infectivity was increased 8-fold when the Thr499Ser mutant was used. These infectivity enhancements were not observed when GalNAcT3 was used. Using HEK293T knockout cell lines totally devoid of the ability to perform O-linked glycosylation, we demonstrated production of normal levels of virions and normal levels of infectivity in the complete absence of O-linked carbohydrate. Our data indicate that O-glycosylation is not necessary for the natural replication cycle of HIV and SIV. Nonetheless, it remains theoretically possible that the repertoire of GalNAc transferase isoforms in natural target cells for HIV and SIV in vivo could result in O-glycosylation of the threonine residue in question and that this could boost the infectivity of virions beyond the levels seen in the absence of such O-glycosylation.IMPORTANCE Approximately 50% of the mass of the gp120 envelope glycoprotein of both HIV and SIV is N-linked carbohydrate. One of the contributions of this N-linked carbohydrate is to shield conserved peptide sequences from recognition by humoral immunity. This N-linked glycosylation is one of the reasons that primary isolates of HIV and SIV are so heavily resistant to antibody-mediated neutralization. Much less studied is any potential contribution from O-linked glycosylation. The literature on this topic to date is somewhat confusing and ambiguous. Our studies described in this report demonstrate unambiguously that O-linked glycosylation is not necessary for the natural replication cycle of HIV and SIV. However, the door is not totally closed because of the diversity of numerous GalNAc transferase enzymes that initiate O-linked carbohydrate attachment and the theoretical possibility that natural target cells for HIV and SIV in vivo could potentially complete such O-linked carbohydrate attachment to further increase infectivity.