Efficient entry into, and infection of, human cells by human T-cell leukaemia virus type-1 (HTLV-1) is mediated by the viral envelope glycoproteins, gp46 and gp21. The gp46 surface glycoprotein binds to an as yet unidentified cell surface receptor, thereby, allowing the gp21 transmembrane glycoprotein to initiate fusion of the viral and cellular membranes. In the absence of membrane fusion viral penetration and entry into the host cell cannot occur. The envelope glycoproteins are also a major target for neutralising antibodies and cytotoxic T lymphocytes following a protective immune response, and represent ideal constituents for a recombinant HTLV-1 vaccine. Given the importance of the envelope proteins in HTLV-1 pathogenesis there is increasing interest in obtaining sufficient quantities of these proteins for biochemical, biophysical and biological analyses. We have now developed a system for production of large amounts of a glycosylated and functional form of soluble recombinant gp46 (sRgp46), and have used this recombinant material for analysis of envelope function and receptor binding activity. We find that, the sRgp46 molecules expressed in our system are immunologically indistinguishable from the native virally expressed surface glycoproteins; that sRgp46 binds to T-cells in a dose dependent and saturable manner; and that cell surface binding by sRgp46 can be inhibited by neutralising antibodies. Importantly, we demonstrate that these sRgp46 molecules potently inhibit syncytia formation and viral infection of target cells, and that regions outwith the SU domain of envelope are not required for binding to target cells or for inhibiting membrane fusion. The sRgp46 produced in our study will provide new opportunities to investigate envelope–receptor interactions, and will be of utility in defining the conformationally sensitive antigenic determinants of the HTLV-1 surface glycoprotein.
- Human T-cell leukaemia virus