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Jean-Yves Sgro
Inst. for Mol.Virology
731B Bock Labs
1525 Linden Drive Madison, WI 53706

Table of Contents for this page:

  • Current Issue
  • Current Issue of Retrovirology

    Retrovirology - Latest Articles

  • A functional conserved intronic G run in HIV-1 intron 3 is critical to counteract APOBEC3G-mediated host restriction

  • Background: The HIV-1 accessory proteins, Viral Infectivity Factor (Vif) and the pleiotropic Viral Protein R (Vpr) are important for efficient virus replication. While in non-permissive cells an appropriate amount of Vif is critical to counteract APOBEC3G-mediated host restriction, the Vpr-induced G2 arrest sets the stage for highest transcriptional activity of the HIV-1 long terminal repeat.Both vif and vpr mRNAs harbor their translational start codons within the intron bordering the non-coding leader exons 2 and 3, respectively. Intron retention relies on functional cross-exon interactions between splice sites A1 and D2 (for vif mRNA) and A2 and D3 (for vpr mRNA). More precisely, prior to the catalytic step of splicing, which would lead to inclusion of the non-coding leader exons, binding of U1 snRNP to the 5? splice site (5?ss) facilitates recognition of the 3?ss by U2 snRNP and also supports formation of vif and vpr mRNA. Results: We identified a G run localized deep in the vpr AUG containing intron 3 (GI3-2), which was critical for balanced splicing of both vif and vpr non-coding leader exons. Inactivation of GI3-2 resulted in excessive exon 3 splicing as well as exon-definition mediated vpr mRNA formation. However, in an apparently mutually exclusive manner this was incompatible with recognition of upstream exon 2 and vif mRNA processing. As a consequence, inactivation of GI3-2 led to accumulation of Vpr protein with a concomitant reduction in Vif protein. We further demonstrate that preventing hnRNP binding to intron 3 by GI3-2 mutation diminished levels of vif mRNA. In APOBEC3G-expressing but not in APOBEC3G-deficient T cell lines, mutation of GI3-2 led to a considerable replication defect. Moreover, in HIV-1 isolates carrying an inactivating mutation in GI3-2, we identified an adjacent G-rich sequence (GI3-1), which was able to substitute for the inactivated GI3-2. Conclusions: The functionally conserved intronic G run in HIV-1 intron 3 plays a major role in the apparently mutually exclusive exon selection of vif and vpr leader exons and hence in vif and vpr mRNA formation. The competition between these exons determines the ability to evade APOBEC3G-mediated antiviral effects due to optimal vif expression.

  • The neutralizing function of the anti-HTLV-1 antibody is essential in preventing in vivo transmission of HTLV-1 to human T cells in NOD-SCID/¿cnull (NOG) mice

  • Background: Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) causes both neoplastic and inflammatory diseases, including adult T-cell leukemia and HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Because these life-threatening and disabling diseases are not yet curable, it is important to prevent new HTLV-1 infections.FindingsIn this study, we have established a simple humanized mouse model of HTLV-1 infection for evaluating prophylactic and therapeutic interventions. In this model, HTLV-1-negative normal human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) are transplanted directly into the spleens of severely immunodeficient NOD-SCID/?cnull (NOG) mice, together with mitomycin-treated HTLV-1-producing T cells. Using this model, we tested the efficacy of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) specific to HTLV-1 as well as human IgG isolated from HAM/TSP patients (HAM-IgG) in preventing HTLV-1-infection. One hour before and 24?h after transplantation of the human cells, each antibody sample was inoculated intraperitoneally. On day 14, human PBMCs isolated from the mouse spleens were tested for HTLV-1 infection. Whereas fresh CD4-positive and CD8-positive T cells isolated from untreated mice or mice treated with isotype control mAb, HTLV-1 non-neutralizing mAbs to envelope gp46, gag p19, and normal human IgG were all infected with HTLV-1; the mice treated with either HTLV-1 neutralizing anti-gp46 mAb or HAM-IgG did not become infected. Conclusions: Our data indicate that the neutralizing function of the antibody, but not the antigen specificity, is essential for preventing the in vivo transmission of HTLV-1. The present animal model will also be useful for the in vivo evaluation of the efficacy of candidate molecules to be used as prophylactic and therapeutic intervention against HTLV-1 infection.

  • dNTP pool modulation dynamics by SAMHD1 protein in monocyte-derived macrophages

  • Background: SAMHD1 degrades deoxyribonucleotides (dNTPs), suppressing viral DNA synthesis in macrophages. Recently, viral protein X (Vpx) of HIV-2/SIVsm was shown to target SAMHD1 for proteosomal degradation and led to elevation of dNTP levels, which in turn accelerated proviral DNA synthesis of lentiviruses in macrophages. Results: We investigated both time-dependent and quantitative interplays between SAMHD1 level and dNTP concentrations during multiple exposures of Vpx in macrophages. The following were observed. First, SAMHD1 level was rapidly reduced by Vpx?+?VLP to undetectable levels by Western blot analysis. Recovery of SAMHD1 was very slow with less than 3% of the normal macrophage level detected at day 6 post Vpx treatment and only ~30% recovered at day 14. Second, dGTP, dCTP and dTTP levels peaked at day 1 post Vpx treatment, whereas dATP peaked at day 2. However, all dNTPs rapidly decreased starting at day 3, while SAMHD1 level was below the level of detection. Third, when Vpx pretreated macrophages were re-exposed to a second Vpx treatment at day 7, we observed dNTP elevation that had faster kinetics than the first Vpx?+?VLP treatment. Moreover, we performed a short kinetic analysis of the second Vpx treatment to find that dATP and dGTP levels peaked at 8?hours post secondary VLP treatment. dGTP peak was consistently higher than the primary, whereas peak dATP concentration was basically equivalent to the first Vpx?+?VLP treatment. Lastly, HIV-1 replication kinetics were faster in macrophages treated after the secondary Vpx treatments when compared to the initial single Vpx treatment. Conclusion: This study reveals that a very low level of SAMHD1 sufficiently modulates the normally low dNTP levels in macrophages and proposes potential diverse mechanisms of Vpx-mediated dNTP regulation in macrophages.

  • Replication competent virus as an important source of bias in HIV latency models utilizing single round viral constructs

  • The central memory T cell (TCM) model forms a unique HIV-1 latency model based on primary cells that closely resemble in vivo TCM. The virus employed in this model is based on an engineered vector incapable of replication after initial infection. We show that despite this strategy, replication competent viral particles are released into the culture medium due to recombination between overlapping sequences of the env deleted HIV genome that is co-transfected with intact env. This finding emphasizes the need for careful data analysis and interpretation if similar constructs are employed and urges for additional caution during laboratory work.

  • Single genome analysis reveals genetic characteristics of Neuroadaptation across HIV-1 envelope

  • Background: The widespread use of highly effective, combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) has led to a significant reduction in the incidence of HIV-associated dementia (HAD). Despite these advances, the prevalence of HIV-1 associated neurocognitive disorders (HANDs) has been estimated at approximately 40%-50%. In the cART era, the majority of this disease burden is represented by asymptomatic neurocognitive impairment and mild neurocognitive disorder (ANI and MND respectively). Although less severe than HAD, these diagnoses carry with them substantial morbidity. Results: In this cross-sectional study, single genome amplification (SGA) was used to sequence 717 full-length HIV-1 envelope (env) clade B variants from the paired cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood plasma samples of fifteen chronically infected HIV-positive individuals with normal neurocognitive performance (NCN), ANI and MND. Various degrees of compartmentalization were found across disease states and history of cART utilization. In individuals with compartmentalized virus, mean HIV-1 env population diversity was lower in the CSF than plasma-derived variants. Overall, mean V1V2 loop length was shorter in CSF-derived quasispecies when compared to contemporaneous plasma populations, and this was found to correlate with a lower mean number of N-linked glycosylation sites in this region. A number of discrete amino acid positions that correlate strongly with compartmentalization in the CSF were identified in both variable and constant regions of gp120 as well as in gp41. Correlated mutation analyses further identified that a subset of amino acid residues in these compartmentalization“hot spot” positions were strongly correlated with one another, suggesting they may play an important, definable role in the adaptation of viral variants to the CSF. Analysis of these hot spots in the context of a well-supported crystal structure of HIV-1 gp120 suggests mechanisms through which amino acid differences at the identified residues might contribute to viral compartmentalization in the CSF. Conclusions: The detailed analyses of SGA-derived full length HIV-1 env from subjects with both normal neurocognitive performance and the most common HAND diagnoses in the cART era allow us to identify novel and confirm previously described HIV-1 env genetic determinants of neuroadaptation and relate potential motifs to HIV-1 env structure and function.

  • MxB binds to the HIV-1 core and prevents the uncoating process of HIV-1

  • Background: The IFN-α-inducible restriction factor MxB blocks HIV-1 infection after reverse transcription but prior to integration. Genetic evidence suggested that capsid is the viral determinant for restriction by MxB. This work explores the ability of MxB to bind to the HIV-1 core, and the role of capsid-binding in restriction. Results: We showed that MxB binds to the HIV-1 core and that this interaction leads to inhibition of the uncoating process of HIV-1. These results identify MxB as an endogenously expressed protein with the ability to inhibit HIV-1 uncoating. In addition, we found that a benzimidazole-based compound known to have a binding pocket on the surface of the HIV-1 capsid prevents the binding of MxB to capsid. The use of this small-molecule identified the MxB binding region on the surface of the HIV-1 core. Domain mapping experiments revealed the following requirements for restriction: 1) MxB binding to the HIV-1 capsid, which requires the 20 N-terminal amino acids, and 2) oligomerization of MxB, which is mediated by the C-terminal domain provides the avidity for the interaction of MxB with the HIV-1 core. Conclusions: Overall our work establishes that MxB binds to the HIV-1 core and inhibits the uncoating process of HIV-1. Moreover, we demonstrated that HIV-1 restriction by MxB requires capsid binding and oligomerization.

  • Rapid, repeated, low-dose challenges with SIVmac239 infect animals in a condensed challenge window

  • Background: Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of nonhuman primates is the predominant model for preclinical evaluation of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccines. These studies frequently utilize high-doses of SIV that ensure infection after a single challenge but do not recapitulate critical facets of sexual HIV transmission. Investigators are increasingly using low-dose challenges in which animals are challenged once every week or every two weeks in order to better replicate sexual HIV transmission. Using this protocol, some animals require over ten challenges before SIV infection is detectable, potentially inducing localized immunity. Moreover, the lack of certainty over which challenge will lead to productive infection prevents tissue sampling immediately surrounding the time of infection.FindingsHere we challenged Mauritian cynomolgus macaques with 100 50% tissue culture infectious doses (TCID50) of SIVmac239 intrarectally three times a day for three consecutive days. Ten of twelve animals had positive plasma viral loads after this challenge regimen. Conclusions: This approach represents a straightforward advance in SIV challenge protocols that may avoid induction of local immunity, avoid inconsistent timing between last immunization and infection, and allow sampling immediately after infection using low-dose challenge protocols.

  • NUCKS1, a novel Tat coactivator, plays a crucial role in HIV-1 replication by increasing Tat-mediated viral transcription on the HIV-1 LTR promoter

  • Background: Human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) Tat protein plays an essential role in HIV gene transcription from the HIV-1 long terminal repeat (LTR) and replication. Transcriptional activity of Tat is modulated by several host factors, but the mechanism responsible for Tat regulation by host factors is not understood fully. Results: Using a yeast two-hybrid screening system, we identified Nuclear ubiquitous casein and cyclin-dependent kinase substrate 1 (NUCKS1) as a novel Tat-interacting partner. Here, we report its function as a positive regulator of Tat. In a coimmunoprecipitation assay, HIV-1 Tat interacted sufficiently with both endogenous and ectopically expressed NUCKS1. In a reporter assay, ectopic expression of NUCKS1 significantly increased Tat-mediated transcription of the HIV-1 LTR, whereas knockdown of NUCKS1 by small interfering RNA diminished Tat-mediated transcription of the HIV-1 LTR. We also investigated which mechanism contributes to NUCKS1-mediated Tat activation. In a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay (ChIP), knockdown of NUCKS1 interrupted the accumulation of Tat in the transactivation-responsive (TAR) region on the LTR, which then led to suppression of viral replication. However, NUCKS1 expression did not increase Tat nuclear localization and interaction with Cyclin T1. Interestingly, the NUCKS1 expression level was lower in latently HIV-1-infected cells than in uninfected parent cells. Besides, expression level of NUCKS1 was markedly induced, which then facilitated HIV-1 reactivation in latently infected cells. Conclusion: Taken together, our data demonstrate clearly that NUCKS1 is a novel Tat coactivator that is required for Tat-mediated HIV-1 transcription and replication, and that it may contribute to HIV-1 reactivation in latently HIV-1 infected cells.

  • The distribution of insertionally polymorphic endogenous retroviruses in breast cancer patients and cancer-free controls

  • Background: Integration of retroviral DNA into a germ cell can result in a provirus that is transmitted vertically to the host’s offspring. In humans, such endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) comprise ggt;8% of the genome. The HERV-K(HML-2) proviruses consist of ~90 elements related to mouse mammary tumor virus, which causes breast cancer in mice. A subset of HERV-K(HML-2) proviruses has some or all genes intact, and even encodes functional proteins, though a replication competent copy has yet to be observed. More than 10% of HML-2 proviruses are human-specific, having integrated subsequent to the Homo-Pan divergence, and, of these, 11 are currently known to be polymorphic in integration site with variable frequencies among individuals. Increased expression of the most recent HML-2 proviruses has been observed in tissues and cell lines from several types of cancer, including breast cancer, for which expression may provide a meaningful marker of the disease. Results: In this study, we performed a case–control analysis to investigate the possible relationship between the genome-wide presence of individual polymorphic HML-2 proviruses with the occurrence of breast cancer. For this purpose, we screened 50 genomic DNA samples from individuals diagnosed with breast cancer or without history of the disease (n = 25 per group) utilizing a combination of locus-specific PCR screening, in silico analysis of HML-2 content within the reference human genome sequence, and high-resolution genomic hybridization in semi-dried agarose. By implementing this strategy, we were able to analyze the distribution of both annotated and previously undescribed polymorphic HML-2 proviruses within our sample set, and to assess their possible association with disease outcome. Conclusions: In a case–control analysis of 50 humans with regard to breast cancer diagnosis, we found no significant difference in the prevalence of proviruses between groups, suggesting common polymorphic HML-2 proviruses are not associated with breast cancer. Our findings indicate a higher level of putatively novel HML-2 sites within the population, providing support for additional recent insertion events, implying ongoing, yet rare, activities. These findings do not rule out either the possibility of involvement of such proviruses in a subset of breast cancers, or their possible utility as tissue-specific markers of disease.

  • The dUTPase-related gene of bovine immunodeficiency virus is critical for viral replication, despite the lack of dUTPase activity of the encoded protein

  • Background: Deoxyuridine 5[prime]-triphosphate nucleotide-hydrolases (dUTPases) are essential for maintaining low intra-cellular dUTP/dTTP ratios. Therefore, many viruses encode this enzyme to prevent dUTP incorporation into their genomes instead of dTTP. Among the lentiviruses, the non-primate viruses express dUTPases. In bovine immunodeficiency virus (BIV), the putative dUTPase protein is only 74 residues-long, compared to ~130 residues in other lentiviruses. Results: In this study, the recombinant BIV dUTPase, as well as infectious wild-type (WT) BIV virions, were shown to lack any detectable dUTPase activity. Controls of recombinant dUTPase from equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV) or of EIAV virions showed substantial dUTPase activities. To assess the importance of the dUTPase to BIV replication, we have generated virions of WT BIV or BIV with mutations in the dUTPase gene. The two mutant viral dUTPases were the double mutant D48E/S57N (in the putative enzyme active site and its vicinity) and a deletion of 36 residues. In dividing Cf2Th cells and under conditions where the WT virus was infectious and generated progeny virions, both mutant viruses were defective, as no progeny viruses were generated. Analyses of the integrated viral cDNA showed that cells infected with the mutant virions carry in their genomic DNA levels of integrated BIV DNA that are comparable to those in WT BIV-infected cells. Conclusions: The herby presented results show that the two BIV mutants with the modified dUTPase gene could infect cells, as viral cDNA was synthesized and integrated into the host cell DNA. However, no virions were generated by cells infected by these mutants. The most likely explanation is that either the integrated cDNA of the mutants is defective (due to potential multiple mutations, introduced during reverse-transcription) or that the original dUTPase mutations have led to severe blocks in viral replication at steps post integration. These results emphasize the importance of the dUTPase-related sequence to BIV replication, despite the lack of any detectable catalytic activity.
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