The initial step of retrovirus entry—the interaction between the virus envelope glycoprotein trimer and a cellular receptor—is complex, involving multiple, noncontiguous determinants in both proteins that specify receptor choice, binding affinity and the ability to trigger conformational changes in the viral glycoproteins. Despite the complexity of this interaction, retroviruses have the ability to evolve the structure of their envelope glycoproteins to use a different cellular protein as receptors. The highly homologous subgroup A to E Avian Sarcoma and Leukosis Virus (ASLV) glycoproteins belong to the group of class 1 viral fusion proteins with a two-step triggering mechanism that allows experimental access to intermediate structures during the fusion process. We and others have taken advantage of replication-competent ASLVs and exploited genetic selection strategies to force the ASLVs to naturally evolve and acquire envelope glycoprotein mutations to escape the pressure on virus entry and still yield a functional replicating virus. This approach allows for the simultaneous selection of multiple mutations in multiple functional domains of the envelope glycoprotein that may be required to yield a functional virus. Here, we review the ASLV family and experimental system and the reverse engineering approaches used to understand the evolution of ASLV receptor usage.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited