Virology, Nebraska Center for


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2005, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.



JOURNAL OF VIROLOGY, Jan. 2005, p. 1154–1163 Vol. 79, No. 2


Genetic variation of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) represents a major obstacle for AIDS vaccine development. To decrease the genetic distances between candidate immunogens and field virus strains, we have designed and synthesized an artificial group M consensus env gene (CON6 gene) to be equidistant from contemporary HIV-1 subtypes and recombinants. This novel envelope gene expresses a glycoprotein that binds soluble CD4, utilizes CCR5 but not CXCR4 as a coreceptor, and mediates HIV-1 entry. Key linear, conformational, and glycan-dependent monoclonal antibody epitopes are preserved in CON6, and the glycoprotein is recognized equally well by sera from individuals infected with different HIV-1 subtypes. When used as a DNA vaccine followed by a recombinant vaccinia virus boost in BALB/c mice, CON6 env gp120 and gp140CF elicited gamma interferon-producing T-cell responses that recognized epitopes within overlapping peptide pools from three HIV-1 Env proteins, CON6, MN (subtype B), and Chn19 (subtype C). Sera from guinea pigs immunized with recombinant CON6 Env gp120 and gp140CF glycoproteins weakly neutralized selected HIV-1 primary isolates. Thus, the computer-generated “consensus” env genes are capable of expressing envelope glycoproteins that retain the structural, functional, and immunogenic properties of wild-type HIV-1 envelopes.