Xue-Feng Wang , Yu-Hong Wang , Bowen Bai , Mengmeng Zhang , Jie Chen , Xiangmin Zhang , Min Gao , Xiaojun Wang
J Virol.2021 Sep 8;JVI0108721.doi: 10.1128/JVI.01087-21. Online ahead of print.
Envelope glycoproteins (Envs) of lentiviruses harbor unusually long cytoplasmic tails (CTs). Natural CT truncations always occur in vitro and are accompanied by attenuated virulence, but their effects on viral replication have not been fully elucidated. The Env in equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV) harbors the longest CT in the lentiviral family, and a truncated CT was observed in a live attenuated vaccine. This study demonstrates that CT truncation significantly increased EIAV production, as determined by comparing the virion yields from EIAV infectious clones in the presence or absence of the CT. A significant increase in a cleaved product from the CT-truncated Env precursor, but not the full-length Env, was observed. We further confirmed that the presence of the CT inhibited the cleavage of the Env precursor and found that a functional domain located at the C-terminus was responsible for this function. Moreover, CT-truncated Env was mainly localized at the plasma membrane (PM), while full-length Env was mainly localized in the cytoplasm. The CT-truncation caused a dramatic reduction in the endocytosis of Env. These results suggest that the CT can modulate the processing and trafficking of EIAV Env and thus regulate EIAV replication. Importance The mature lentivirus envelope glycoprotein (Env) is composed of a surface unit (SU) and a transmembrane unit (TM), which are cleaved products of the Env precursor. After mature Env is heterodimerically formed from the cleavage of the Env precursor, it is trafficked to the plasma membrane (PM) for incorporation and virion assembly. Env harbors a long cytoplasmic tail (CT), which has been increasingly found to play multiple roles in the Env biological cycle. Here, we revealed for the first time that the CT of equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV) Env inhibits cleavage of the Env precursor. Simultaneously, the CT promoted Env endocytosis, resulting in weakened Env localization at the PM. We also validated that the CT could significantly decrease EIAV production. These findings suggest that the CT regulates the processing and trafficking of EIAV Env to balance virion production.