Seven envelope regions from two series of patient isolates have been molecularly cloned and analyzed for replication phenotypes and immunogenicity. Growth potential was analyzed for env sequences substituted into an HIV-1-NL4-3 backbone (NL4-3/env recombinants). Immunogenicity studies were conducted on secreted monomeric (gp120) and oligomeric (gp140) forms of the Envs using Env-expressing plasmid DNAs for immunizations. The env regions of the patient isolates conferred a spectrum of replication kinetics and cytotropisms on the NL4-3/env recombinants. Both patient series included nonsyncytium-inducing viruses with no ability to grow on T-cell lines, and highly syncytium inducing viruses which grew well on T-cell lines. These differences in growth potential did not correlate with the ability of the DNA-expressed Envs to raise antibody in rabbits. Rather, the relative immunogenicity of the Envs was patient and form specific. The Envs from patient 5 raised higher titers of antibody than the Envs from patient 6. For each primary Env, the gp120 form of the Env raised higher titers of antibody than the gp140 form. Thus, structural features of Env that affect replication do not necessarily affect the ability to raise antibody.
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