Molecular Characterization of Primate Lentiviruses from DeBrazza, Mona, and Blue Monkeys.

F. Bibollet-Ruche*1, V. Courgnaud2, X. Pourrut2, E. Mpoudi3, J. Mwenda4, V. Hirsch5, E. Delaporte2, M. Peeters2, F. Gao6, G. M. Shaw1, And B. H. Hahn6.

1: Howard Hughes Med. Inst.; 2: IRD, Montpellier, France; 3: PRESICA Project, Yaounde, Cameroon; 4: IRP, Nairobi, Kenya; 5: NIAID/NIH, Rockville, MD; and 6: Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham.

In a recent sero-survey of wild born primates in Cameroon, we identified three DeBrazza monkeys (Cercopithecus neglectus) to harbor HIV/SIV cross-reactive antibodies. To characterize the infecting viruses, we used regular and long PCR methods to amplify viral sequences from uncultured PBMC DNA. This approach yielded subgenomic pol and nef fragments for two viruses (SIVdebCM1, and SIVdebCM40) and a full length genome (SIVdebCM5) for the other. Sequence analysis revealed that CM1, CM40 and CM5 were closely related to each other, indicating that these were genuine De Brazza monkey viruses. Moreover, phylogenetic analyses of the various SIVdeb protein sequences showed that this virus clusters with SIVsyk with significant bootstrap values, albeit rather distantly. Since DeBrazza and Sykes' monkeys are both members of the Cercopithecus genus, these data, along with some specific characteristics in the TAR secondary structure, suggested that their viruses had evolved in a host-dependent fashion. However, two other previously reported viral strains, i.e., SIVlhoest from L'Hoest monkeys and SIVsun from Sun-tailed monkeys (both also classified within the Cercopithecus genus), did not group with SIVsyk/SIVdeb. To investigate these relationships, we amplified and phylogenetically analyzed nuclear gene sequences (ERV LTR and G6PD sequences) from a variety of different Old World monkey species. These studies revealed that sequences from members of lhoesti group of monkeys (L'hoest Preuss’ and Sun-tailed monkeys) formed a tight-knit cluster, only distantly related to the other Cercopithecus species. Taken together, these data suggest that SIVsyk and SIVdeb might represent the true SIVcercopithecus lineage. We have recently characterized SIVs from Blue (Cercopithecus mitis) and mona (Cercopithecus mona) monkeys, and partial sequence and phylogenetic analyses are in full agreement with this hypothesis.

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