Fitness costs limit viral escape from cytotoxic T lymphocytes at a structurally constrained epitope

Fred W. Peyerl, Heidi S. Bazick, Michael H. Newberg, Dan H. Barouch, Joseph Sodroski, Norman L. Letvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The intense selection pressure exerted by virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) on replicating human immunodeficiency virus and simian immunodeficiency virus results in the accumulation of CTL epitope mutations. It has been assumed that fitness costs can limit the evolution of CTL epitope mutations. However, only a limited number of studies have carefully examined this possibility. To explore the fitness costs associated with viral escape from p11C, C-M-specific CTL, we constructed a panel of viruses encoding point mutations at each position of the entire p11C, C-M epitope. Amino acid substitutions at positions 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9 of the epitope significantly impaired virus replication by altering virus production and Gag protein expression as well as by destabilizing mature cores. Amino acid substitutions at position 2 of the epitope were tolerated but required reversion or additional compensatory mutations to generate replication-competent viruses. Finally, while amino acid substitutions at positions 1 and 8 of the p11C, C-M epitope were functionally tolerated, these substitutions were recognized by p11C, C-M-specific CTL and therefore provided no selection advantage for the virus. Together, these data suggest that limited sequence variation is tolerated by the region of the capsid encoding the p11C, C-M epitope and therefore that only a very limited number of mutations can allow successful viral escape from the p11C, C-M-specific CTL response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13901-13910
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'Fitness costs limit viral escape from cytotoxic T lymphocytes at a structurally constrained epitope'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this