Neutralization of HTLV-III/LAV replication by antiserum to thymosin alpha 1

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Science  30 May 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4754, pp. 1135-1137
DOI: 10.1126/science.3010464


An antiserum prepared against thymosin alpha 1, a hormone secreted by the thymus gland, effectively neutralized the AIDS-associated virus [HTLV-III/LAV (clone BH-10)] and blocked its replication in H9 cells. Reverse transcriptase activity and expression of the HTLV-III/LAV antigens p15 and p24 were inhibited by purified immunoglobulin G preparations of antisera to thymosin alpha 1. The antiviral activity of the antiserum was found to be due to a region of homology between thymosin alpha 1 and p17, a product of the gag gene of HTLV-III/LAV. Comparison of the primary sequences of thymosin alpha 1 and the gag protein revealed a 44% to 50% homology in an 18-amino acid region, between positions 11 and 28 on thymosin alpha 1 and 92 and 109 on the gag protein. The effectiveness of the thymosin alpha 1 antiserum and of immunoglobulin G-enriched preparations in blocking replication of HTLV-III(BH-10) in H9 cells suggests a novel approach to the development of an AIDS vaccine. A vaccine directed against the gag protein might overcome the problem of genetic drift in the envelope region of the virus and be useful against all genetic variants of HTLV-III/LAV.

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