Codon usage optimization of HIV type 1 subtype C gag, pol, env, and nef genes: In vitro expression and immune responses in DNA-vaccinated mice

Academic Article


  • Codon usage optimization of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) structural genes has been shown to increase protein expression in vitro as well as in the context of DNA vaccines in vivo; however, all optimized genes reported thus far are derived from HIV-1 (group M) subtype B viruses. Here, we report the generation and biological characterization of codon usage-optimized gag, pol, env (gp160, gp140, gp120), and nef genes from a primary (nonrecombinant) HIV-1 subtype C isolate. After transfection into 293T cells, optimized subtype C genes expressed one to two orders of magnitude more protein (as determined by immunoblot densitometry) than the corresponding wild-type constructs. This effect was most pronounced for gp160, gp140, Gag, and Pol (>250-fold), but was also observed for gp120 and Nef (45- and 20-fold, respectively). Optimized gp160-and gp140-dervied glycoproteins were processed, incorporated into virus particles, and mediated virus entry when expressed in trans to complement an env-minus HIV-1 provirus. Mice immunized with optimized gp140 DNA developed antibody as well as CD4+ and CD8+ T cell immune responses that were orders of magnitude greater than those of mice immunized with wild-type gp140 DNA. These data confrm and extend previous studies of codon usage optimization of HIV-1 genes to the most prevalent group M subtype. Our panel of matched optimized and wild-type subtype C genes should prove valuable for studies of protein expression and function, the generation of subtype-specific immunological reagents, and the production of DNA-based subunit vaccines directed against a broader spectrum of viruses.
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    Author List

  • Gao F; Li Y; Decker JM; Peyerl FW; Bibollet-Ruche F; Rodenburg CM; Chen Y; Shaw DR; Allen S; Musonda R
  • Start Page

  • 817
  • End Page

  • 823
  • Volume

  • 19
  • Issue

  • 9