Nature communications 2018 04 109(1) 1371 doi 10.1038/s41467-018-03762-3
HIV-1 causes chronic inflammation and AIDS in humans, whereas related simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) replicate efficiently in their natural hosts without causing disease. It is currently unknown to what extent virus-specific properties are responsible for these different clinical outcomes. Here, we incorporate two putative HIV-1 virulence determinants, i.e., a Vpu protein that antagonizes tetherin and blocks NF-κB activation and a Nef protein that fails to suppress T cell activation via downmodulation of CD3, into a non-pathogenic SIVagm strain and test their impact on viral replication and pathogenicity in African green monkeys. Despite sustained high-level viremia over more than 4 years, moderately increased immune activation and transcriptional signatures of inflammation, the HIV-1-like SIVagm does not cause immunodeficiency or any other disease. These data indicate that species-specific host factors rather than intrinsic viral virulence factors determine the pathogenicity of primate lentiviruses.