Primate lentiviruses including human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) evolved through the acquisition of antagonists against intrinsic host restriction factors, such as tetherin. It is widely accepted that HIV-1 has emerged by zoonotic transmission of SIV in chimpanzee (SIVcpz), and that SIVcpz Nef protein antagonizes chimpanzee tetherin. Although Nef of SIVcpz shares a common ancestor with that of SIVrcm, an SIV in red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus), it remains unclear whether SIVrcm Nef can antagonize tetherin of its natural host. In this study, we determine the sequence of red-capped mangabey tetherin for the first time and directly demonstrate that SIVrcm Nef is the bona fide antagonist of red-capped mangabey tetherin. These findings suggest that SIVrcm Nef is the functional ancestor of SIVcpz Nef. Moreover, molecular phylogenetic analyses reveal that tetherins of the genus Cercocebus have experienced adaptive evolution, which is presumably promoted by primate lentiviruses.
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