HIV-1 adaptation studies reveal a novel Env-mediated homeostasis mechanism for evading lethal hypermutation by APOBEC3G
Ikeda T., Symeonides M., Albin J.S., Li M., Thali M., & Harris R.S.
HIV-1 replication normally requires Vif-mediated neutralization of APOBEC3 antiviral enzymes. Viruses lacking Vif succumb to deamination-dependent and -independent restriction processes. Here, HIV-1 adaptation studies were leveraged to ask whether viruses with an irreparable vif deletion could develop resistance to restrictive levels of APOBEC3G. Several resistant viruses were recovered with multiple amino acid substitutions in Env, and these changes alone are sufficient to protect Vif-null viruses from APOBEC3G-dependent restriction in T cell lines. Env adaptations cause decreased fusogenicity, which results in higher levels of Gag-Pol packaging. Increased concentrations of packaged Pol in turn enable faster virus DNA replication and protection from APOBEC3G-mediated hypermutation of viral replication intermediates. Taken together, these studies reveal that a moderate decrease in one essential viral activity, namely Env-mediated fusogenicity, enables the virus to change other activities, here, Gag-Pol packaging during particle production, and thereby escape restriction by the antiviral factor APOBEC3G. We propose a new paradigm in which alterations in viral homeostasis, through compensatory small changes, constitute a general mechanism used by HIV-1 and other viral pathogens to escape innate antiviral responses and other inhibitions including antiviral drugs.