The question of whether consensus nucleotide substitutions in the long terminal repeat (LTR) region of simian immunodeficiency virus strain mac (SIVmac) are important for neurovirulence was investigated in this report. Brains and lymph nodes from two macaques that developed AIDS and encephalitis following inoculation with two strains of neurovirulent SIVmac, and from one animal with AIDS but no neurological disease after inoculation with non-neurovirulent SIVmac239 were used. The 5' LTR regions from neurovirulent SIVmacR71/17E and SIVmac7F-Lu were amplified, cloned and sequenced and these sequences were compared to the LTRs amplified from three regions of the respective encephalitic brains and lymph nodes from macaques inoculated with each virus. The SIVmac7F-Lu and SIVmacR71/17E viruses had zero and three consensus substitutions, respectively, in the U3, R and U5 regions of the LTR compared to that of SIVmac239. The only consensus substitution in the LTR-gag region of the genome was a T to C change at position 829 within the tRNA binding site. The sequences amplified from the brain and lymph nodes of the two animals with AIDS and encephalitis were identical. This single common substitution in this region of the virus genome, the T to C substitution at position 829, was also found in the LTRs isolated from the brain and lymphoid organs from the macaque inoculated with SIVmac239. The virtual identity in nucleotide sequences in the LTR of the neurovirulent and non-neurovirulent viruses and in CNS and lymph tissues of animals inoculated with the viruses suggests that the LTR has no effect on the tissue tropisms of the viruses.


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