A full-length infectious molecular clone was derived from the noncytopathic human immunodeficiency virus type 2 UC1 strain (HIV-2UC1) that was originally recoverd from an individual from the Ivory Coast. Like the parental isolate, the molecularly cloned virus (HIV-2UC1mc or UC1 mc) demonstrates a reduced ability to induce syncytium formation, to kill cells, and to down-modulate the cell surface CD4 receptor in infected cells. Phylogenetic analysis of the DNA sequence of UC1mc revealed that it is the first full-length infectious molecular clone in the second HIV-2 subgroup previously identified by partial sequence analysis of the HIV-2D205 and HIV-2GH-2 strains. These highly divergent HIV-2 strains appear to be genetically equidistant from other HIV-2 and simian immunodeficiency virus SIVmac/sm strains. UC1mc is unlike any other HIV-2 or SIVmac/sm strain in that it lacks a cysteine residue at the proposed signal peptide cleavage site in Env. However, site-directed mutagenesis experiments indicate that this missing cysteine is not alone important in the noncytopathic phenotype of UC1mc. Like other HIV-2 and SIV strains, the UC1mc Env transmembrane protein (gp43) is mutated to a truncated form (gp34) after passage in certain T-cell lines. The UC1 molecular clone should be helpful in determining the genetic sequences associated with HIV-2 cytopathicity.
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