Identification and Molecular Characterization of a New Primate Lentivirus (SIVcol) from Colobus Monkeys in Cameroon.

V. Courgnaud1, F. Liegeois1, X. Pourrut1, F. Bibollet-Ruche2, E. Mpoudi3, E. Delaporte1 And M. Peeters1.

1: Laboratoire Retrovirus, IRD, Montpellier, France. 2: Howard Hugues Med. Inst. Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL. 3: Projet PRESICA, Yaounde, Cameroon

To date, based on sequence relatedness, primate lentiviruses can be classified into five major lineages approximately equidistant. In order to study primate lentivirus diversity, a sero-survey of wild born primates in Cameroon was conducted. This screening identified two Colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza) with HIV/SIV cross-reactive antibodies. To characterize these viruses, we PCR amplified viral sequences from PBMC DNA. Using primers highly conserved among all known primate lentiviruses, we obtained a small fragment in pol gene for the 2 viruses (SIVcolCGU1 and SIVcol43). Sequence analysis confirmed that the 2 viruses were closely related to each other. Then, using strain specific primers, we amplified the complete genome of SIVcolCGU1 by targeting unintegrated circular DNA. SIVcolCGU1 has been fully characterized and had a genomic organization characteristic for most primate lentiviruses (lacking vpu and vpx). Comparisons of the predicted protein sequences encoded by the eight common genes revealed that SIVcol was very distinct from all other known SIVs/HIVs isolates: on average we observed 50% amino acid sequence difference for conserved protein like Pol to 75% for Env or Nef /representatives of each of the five lineages of primate lentiviruses. Phylogenetic analyses confirmed that SIVcol is genetically distinct from others SIVs and clusters independently, forming thus a novel (sixth) lineage. Among Cercopithecidae monkeys (Old world monkeys), two groups are recognized, the Colobinae and the Cercopithecinae and, so far, all Cercopithecidae monkeys from which lentiviruses have been isolated belong to the Cercopithecinae subfamily. Therefore, SIVcol from Colobus (Colobus guereza) monkey is the first primate lentiviruse identified in the Colobinae subfamily and represents the most divergent primate lentivirus reported to date.

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