Natural infection of sooty mangabey monkeys with simian immunodeficiency virus, designated SIV/SMM, results in long-term persistent infections with little or no disease. In contrast, experimental infection of macaques with isolates of SIV/SMM induces chronic and progressive disease that terminates in an AIDS-like illness and death in most animals. To determine whether antibodies might be important in preventing the development of disease in mangabeys or progression of disease in macaques, humoral immune responses to SIV/SMM were compared in 13 macaques infected for up to 43 months and in infected and uninfected mangabeys selected at random from among a breeding colony. Total SIV/SMM-specific antibody titers, profiles of antibodies to specific viral proteins, neutralizing antibodies that inhibited infectivity of cell-free virus or syncytia formation, antibodies that inhibited reverse transcriptase activity, and antibodies to lymphocyte cell-surface antigens were assessed. The results indicated that in macaques the magnitude of the SIV/SMM-specific antibody response and progression of disease were functions of virus load. Surprisingly, asymptomatic mangabeys also had high virus loads with, on average, lower antibody titers than macaques. In both species, the presence of neutralizing antibodies or antibodies that inhibited SIV/SMM reverse transcriptase activity did not correlate with protection from clinical disease. A correlation was observed, however, between the development of disease and the presence of antibodies to an 18-kDa protein that is found on the surface of activated lymphocytes and appears to be related to histone H2B. A similar correlation has been observed in association with HIV infection in humans, suggesting that some manifestations of both human and simian AIDS may result from autoimmune reactions.
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