Antigenic mutants of HIV-1 were isolated from three plaque-cloned viruses by the resistance of the virus to neutralizing mAb 0.5 beta against V3 domain of viral gp120, when the viruses were passaged in the presence of the antibody. However, when chronically infected MOLT-4 cells were treated with 0.5 beta mAb, recovered viruses from the 0.5 beta-treated cells showed no antigenic changes. The extent of genomic variation among antigenically distinct isolates was examined by nucleotide sequencing, which revealed a few base substitutions in 0.5 beta-binding site of all mutants isolated. The predicted amino acid replacements within 0.5 beta reacting epitope (V3 domain) causing the altered antigenicity were also identified for each of three isolates. Particularly, in one of the mutants, the most conserved Gly-Pro-Gly-Arg region located at the center of the V3 domain was changed to Gly-Gln-Gly-Arg. The radioimmunoprecipitation and synthetic peptide analyses revealed that this Pro320----Gln substitution reduced the binding affinity with 0.5 beta, although other mutations observed in the other mutants did not affect the binding affinity in radioimmunoprecipitation. We also observed that nucleic acid substitutions in the V3 domain occurred frequently in the absence of 0.5 beta mAb during our in vitro acute infection system using MT-4 cells.

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