gp41 20 October 2003
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Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos,
Biophysicist
Department of Medical Engineering and Physics, Royal Perth Hospital, Western Australia 6847,
Valendar F. Turner, Jphn Papadimitriou, Barry A. P. Page, David A. Causer, Helman Alfonso

Send response to journal:
Re: gp41

In his rapid response "HIV gp41 is not actin" (15th October 2003), Christopher Noble wrote: "Contrary to Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos' assertion the Vironostika HIV Uni-Form II plus O contains synthetic peptides based on the immunodominant region of HIV-1 group O gp41.(1)"

Firstly, we did not make any assertion, we simply quoted the manufacturers and stated: "Note that: (i) the Voronostika "includes HIV-1 group O specific antigens" yet cannot detect even all the "Group O" "HIV-1" strains; (ii) since the antigens are "viral lysates" and since "HIV" has never been purified, the antigens could have originated from anywhere."

Secondly, in Christopher Noble’s reference 1, one reads: "screening tests based on HIV viral lysate (native) detect more HIV-1 group O infections than assays based on recombinant or synthetic peptide antigens" (1) This means that the first point of our note is still valid.

Thirdly, in the experiment described in reference 1, instead of using whole lysates, "The HIV-1 group O peptide sequence used was derived from the immunodominant region of gp41 (HIV-1 ANT7() strain, Vanden Haesevelde et al, 1994) and was also used as a synthetic peptide (HIV-O peptide)." Since the ultimate origin of the peptides was the viral lysate of HIV-1 ANT7(), our second point of our note is still valid.

Christopher Noble Wrote: "Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos also claims "Montagnier considers p41 to be the ubiquitous cellular protein actin." This is an often repeated myth that has been propagated by Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos. HIV gp41 has absolutely no relation to actin. Nobody including Montagnier has ever suggested that it has. In the Tahi interview that you cite he clearly distinguishes HIV gp41 from actin. It is true that early viral lysates were contaminated with cellular actin but as you can see newer tests mostly use either recombinant antigens or synthetic peptides. The only reference you give is from 1983! There is absolutely no confusion between HIV gp41 and cellular actin. Why do you continue to propagate this myth? "

To Djamel Tahi’s question: "For you the p41 was not of viral origin and so didn’t belong to HIV. For Gallo it was the most specific protein of the HIV. Why this contradiction?", Montagnier replied: "We were both reasonably right. That’s to say that I in my RIPA technique…in effect there are cellular proteins that one meets everywhere – there’s a non-specific "background noise", and amongst these proteins one is very abundant in cells, which is actin. And this protein has a molecular weight 43000kd. So, it was there. So I was reasonable right, but what Gallo saw on the other hand was the gp41 of HIV, because he was using the Western Blot [WB]. And that I have recognised." (2)

The molecular weight of actin is 41000 and not either 43000 or 45000. Irrespective of the method used to detect the reaction (RIPA or WB), they should have found the same proteins. If gp41 is one of the main "HIV" proteins as Gallo claimed then Montagnier, like Gallo, should have found the protein is his "purified virus". On the other hand, if the protein is one of the "cellular proteins that one meets everywhere – there’s a non-specific "background noise" then Gallo should have found it in his "purified virus" as well.

Since both proteins had the same reaction with patient sera and the same molecular weight, would Christopher Noble please tell us what is the proof that Gallo’s protein was an "HIV" protein whereas Montagnier’s protein was actin?

From an antibody-antigen reaction it is not possible to define the origin of one reactant even if the other is known, much less of both reactants including a totally new one. Given the fact that (i) Gallo (or anybody else since then) had no proof that the antibodies were "HIV" antibodies; (ii) Montagnier himself published evidence that AIDS patients and those at risk have actin antibodies; (3) (iii) retroviruses such as the mouse mammary tumour virus and Rous Sarcoma virus have been shown to contain actin and it has been postulated that this protein plays a key role in both retroviral assembly and budding; (4, 5) then when the 1.16g/ml band is reacted with patients’ sera, if a gp41 band is present it most probably represents cellular actin.

Christopher Noble’s comment: "It is true that early viral lysates were contaminated with cellular actin but as you can see newer tests mostly use either recombinant antigens or synthetic peptides." does not address the issue. As we have already said, just because the recombinant antigens or synthetic peptides react with AIDS patients’ sera, they don’t reveal their origin. Regarding viral lysates "contaminated" with cellular actin, in our extensive literature review, we have not found any studies in which the viral lysates are not "contaminated" with actin. In the 1997 Bess et al study, the proteins of molecular weight "near 42 kDa" (42,000) are labelled as actin with no mention whatsoever of a "HIV" protein.

In the Djamel Tahi interview, Montagnier stated: "analysis of the proteins of the virus demands mass production and purification", something which he claimed to have achieved in 1983. However, in the interview he admitted "I repeat, we did not purify" and in his view neither did Gallo. In fact, incredible as it may sound, he acknowledged that in what he called "purified labelled virus" in 1983 did not even have particles having "the morphology typical of retroviruses. They were very different." (2)

Would Christopher Noble tell us how then he can conclude that the gp41 found by Montagnier and Gallo to react with AIDS patients’ sera was an "HIV" protein?

To claim that gp41 is an "HIV" protein, then (i) proof must exist that it originated from a retrovirus particles or as Montagnier put it, from purified "HIV" particles; (ii) since cellular proteins can be incorporated in virus particles, proof must exist that the protein is coded by an RNA which originated from a retrovirus particle or "purified" virus particles.

Would Christopher Noble please give us a few references showing that points (i) and (ii) have been satisfied?

References

(1) van Binsbergen J, de Rijk D, Peels H, Dries C, Scherders J, Koolen M, Zekeng L, Gurtler LG. (1996) J. Virol. Methods 60: 131-7.

(2) Tahi D. (1998). Did Luc Montagnier discover HIV? Text of video interview with Professor Luc Montagnier at the Pasteur Institute July 18th 1997. Continuum 5:30-34.

(3) Matsiota P, Chamaret S, Montagnier L, Avrameas S. (1987) Detection of Natural Autoantibodies in the serum of Anti-HIV Positive-Individuals. Ann. Institut. Pasteur/Immunol. 138:223-233.

(4) Damsky CH, Sheffield JB, Tuszynski GP, Warren L. (1977) Is there a role for Actin in Virus Budding? J. Cell. Biol. 75:593-605.

(5) Stanislawsky L, Mongiat F, Moura Neto V. (1984) Presence of Actin in Oncornaviruses. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Com. 118:580-586.

Competing interests: None declared