Simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) belong to the family Retroviridae, subfamily Orthoretrovirinae and genus Lentivirus. SIVs refer to a diverse group of viruses that vary considerably in pathogenesis and virulence in their natural host species or macaques. They are members of a genetically diverse group of lentiviruses isolated from African primates which including two human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV-1 and HIV-2).
Fig. 1 Identification of diverse Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) lineages in primate bush meat (Martine Peeters, et al. 2002)
SIVs cause persistent infections in at least 45 African non-human primate species. The pathogenesis of SIV includes both non-pathogenic and pathogenic infections of SIV. Persistent infection, but rarely acute disease is caused by SIV infection of non-human primates (NHPs). The time of the disease progression to AIDS ranges from months to years, which depends on the differences of virus strains. SIV infections in their natural hosts appear to be non-pathogenic in many cases, which is quite different from HIV-1 and HIV-2 infections on humans. SIV virus strains from SIVsmm in SIVcpz in chimpanzees and sooty mangabeys are thought to be capable to cross the species barrier to humans, thus relatively resulting in HIV-1 and HIV-2. The most likely route of transmission of HIV-1 to humans involves the contact with chimps' blood, as chimps are often hunted and butchered for bush meat in Africa
Fig. 2 Schematic representation of an SIV particle structure
SIV contains a duplex positive sense single strand RNA genome. The genome are protected by a truncated cone or wedge-shaped (occasionally rod) capsid with a size of 110x50nm. And the capsid is enclosed by a spherical to pleomorphic glycoprotein envelope. The size of an SIV virion is about 110-120nm. Species specificity of SIV or related retroviruses may be partly depends on the variants of the intracellular protein TRIM5α in humans and other NHP species. TRIM5α is capable to recognize the capsid of various retroviruses and can block their reproductions. Several other proteins are also thought to play important roles in restricting cross-species transmission (the APOBEC3G/3F protein, for example).
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