Apparently conflicting results have been reported regarding the role of env glycoprotein glycans in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infectivity and cytopathogenicity. Whereas we have shown that enzymic removal of carbohydrates from mature envelope glycoproteins has only limited effect on the ability of HIV-1 to bind to CD4 and to infect target cells, sugar analogues that interfere with the glycosylation process of the nascent molecule markedly reduce virus infectivity. Here we have investigated the effect of a glucosidase inhibitor, 1-deoxynojirimycin (dNM), on the bioactivity and immunoreactivity of precursor gp160 produced by recombinant vaccinia virus-infected BHK-21 cells (rgp160). dNM (4 m) did not affect the amount of rgp160 recovered nor its secretion from the cells. As described by other authors the effect of dNM was incomplete, resulting in the production of rgp160, the glycosylation of which was heterogeneous with respect to apparent distribution and to sensitivity to endoglycosidase H and endoglycosidase F, all the species being susceptible to -glycanase. A major reduction of the binding to CD4 cells was noted with rgp160 produced by dNM-treated cells using a quantitative indirect immunofluorescence assay and labelling with polyclonal human anti-HIV IgG. Similarly, dNM treatment altered the accessibility to murine monoclonal antibody 110-4 of the exposed V3 loop of HIV-1 gp120 by at least 10-fold, as determined by either ELISA capture assay or immunoaffinity purification. Such bioactivity and conformation modifications, which result from the abnormal folding of the nascent glycoprotein due to aberrant glycosylation, may account for the impaired HIV-1 infectivity elicited by dNM.


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