Productive replication and evolution of HIV-1 in ferret cells

Hind J. Fadel, Dyana T. Saenz, Rebekah Guevara, Veronika von Messling, Mary Peretz, Eric M. Poeschla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A rodent or other small animal model for HIV-1 has not been forthcoming, with the principal obstacles being species-specific restriction mechanisms and deficits in HIV-1 dependency factors. Some Carnivorans may harbor comparatively fewer impediments. For example, in contrast to mice, the domestic cat genome encodes essential nonreceptor HIV-1 dependency factors. All Feliformia species and at least one Caniformia species also lack a major lentiviral restriction mechanism (TRIM5α/TRIMCyp proteins). Here we investigated cells from two species in another carnivore family, the Mustelidae, for permissiveness to the HIV-1 life cycle. Mustela putorius furo (domesticated ferret) primary cells and cell lines did not restrict HIV-1, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV), or N-tropic murine leukemia virus (MLV) postentry and supported late HIV-1 life cycle steps comparably to human cells. The ferret TRIM5α gene exon 8, which encodes the B30.2 domain, was found to be pseudogenized. Strikingly, ferret (but not mink) cells engineered to express human HIV-1 entry receptors supported productive spreading replication, amplification, and serial passage of wild-type HIV-1. Nevertheless, produced virions had relatively reduced infectivity and the virus accrued G→A hypermutations, consistent with APOBEC3 protein pressure. Ferret cell-passaged HIV-1 also evolved amino acid changes in the capsid cyclophilin A binding loop. We conclude that the genome of this carnivore can provide essential nonreceptor HIV-1 dependency factors and that ferret APOBEC3 proteins with activity against HIV-1 are likely. Even so, unlike in cat cells, HIV-1 can replicate in ferret cells without vif substitution. The virus evolves in this novel nonprimate cell adaptive landscape. We suggest that further characterization of HIV-1 adaptation in ferret cells and delineation of Mustelidae restriction factor repertoires are warranted, with a view to the potential for an HIV-1 animal model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2312-2322
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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