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Jean-Yves Sgro
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Table of Contents for this page:

  • Current Issue
  • Current Issue of Retrovirology

    Retrovirology - Latest Articles

  • Myocyte enhancer factor (MEF)-2 plays essential roles in T-cell transformation associated with HTLV-1 infection by stabilizing complex between Tax and CREB

  • Background: The exact molecular mechanisms regarding HTLV-1 Tax-mediated viral gene expression and CD4 T-cell transformation have yet to be fully delineated. Herein, utilizing virus-infected primary CD4+ T cells and the virus-producing cell line, MT-2, we describe the involvement and regulation of Myocyte enhancer factor-2 (specifically MEF-2A) during the course of HTLV-1 infection and associated disease syndrome. Results: Inhibition of MEF-2 expression by shRNA and its activity by HDAC9 led to reduced viral replication and T-cell transformation in correlation with a heightened expression of MEF-2 in ATL patients. Mechanistically, MEF-2 was recruited to the viral promoter (LTR, long terminal repeat) in the context of chromatin, and constituted Tax/CREB transcriptional complex via direct binding to the HTLV-1 LTR. Furthermore, an increase in MEF-2 expression was observed upon infection in an extent similar to CREB (known Tax-interacting transcription factor), and HATs (p300, CBP, and p/CAF). Confocal imaging confirmed MEF-2 co-localization with Tax and these proteins were also shown to interact by co-immunoprecipitation. MEF-2 stabilization of Tax/CREB complex was confirmed by a novel promoter-binding assay that highlighted the involvement of NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells) in this process via Tax-mediated activation of calcineurin (a calcium-dependent serine-threonine phosphatase). MEF-2-integrated signaling pathways (PI3K/Akt, NF-κB, MAPK, JAK/STAT, and TGF-β) were also activated during HTLV-1 infection of primary CD4+ T cells, possibly regulating MEF-2 activity. Conclusions: We demonstrate the involvement of MEF-2 in Tax-mediated LTR activation, viral replication, and T-cell transformation in correlation with its heightened expression in ATL patients through direct binding to DNA within the HTLV-1 LTR.

  • The CRISPR/Cas9 system inactivates latent HIV-1 proviral DNA

  • Background: Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has transformed HIV-1 infection from a deadly disease to a manageable chronic illness, albeit does not provide a cure. The recently developed genome editing system called CRISPR/Cas9 offers a new tool to inactivate the integrated latent HIV-1 DNA and may serve as a new avenue toward cure.FindingsWe tested 10 sites in HIV-1 DNA that can be targeted by CRISPR/Cas9. The engineered CRISPR/Cas9 system was introduced into the JLat10.6 cells that are latently infected by HIV-1. The sequencing results showed that each target site in HIV-1 DNA was efficiently mutated by CRISPR/Cas9 with the target site in the second exon of Rev (called T10) exhibiting the highest degree of mutation. As a result, HIV-1 gene expression and virus production were significantly diminished with T10 causing a 20-fold reduction. Conclusions: The CRISPR/Cas9 complex efficiently mutates and deactivates HIV-1 proviral DNA in latently infected Jurkat cells. Our results also revealed a highly efficient Cas9 target site within the second exon of Rev that represents a promising target to be further explored in the CRISPR/Cas9-based cure strategy.

  • AZT resistance alters enzymatic properties and creates an ATP-binding site in SFVmac reverse transcriptase

  • Background: The replication of simian foamy virus from macaques can be inhibited by the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor azidothymidine (AZT, zidovudine). Four substitutions in the protease-reverse transcriptase (PR-RT) protein (K211I, I224T, S345T, E350K) are necessary to obtain highly AZT resistant and fully replication competent virus. AZT resistance is based on the excision of the incorporated AZTMP in the presence of ATP. I224T is a polymorphism which is not essential for AZT resistance per se, but is important for regaining efficient replication of the resistant virus. Results: We constructed PR-RT enzymes harboring one to four amino acid substitutions to analyze them biochemically and to determine their ability to remove the incorporated AZTMP. S345T is the only single substitution variant exhibiting significant AZTMP excision activity. Although K211I alone showed no AZTMP excision activity, excision efficiency doubled when K211I was present in combination with S345T and E350K. K211I also decreased nucleotide binding affinity and increased fidelity. NMR titration experiments revealed that a truncated version of the highly AZT resistant mt4 variant, comprising only the fingers-palm subdomains was able to bind ATP with a K D -value of ca. 7.6 mM, whereas no ATP binding could be detected in the corresponding wild type protein. We could show by NMR spectroscopy that S345T is responsible for ATP binding, probably by making a tryptophan residue accessible. Conclusion: Although AZT resistance in SFVmac is based on excision of the incorporated AZTMP like in HIV-1, the functions of the resistance substitutions in SFVmac PR-RT appear to be different. No mutation resulting in an aromatic residue like F/Y215 in HIV, which is responsible forπ-π-stacking interactions with ATP, is present in SFVmac. Instead, S345T is responsible for creating an ATP binding site, probably by making an already existing tryptophan more accessible, which in turn can interact with ATP. This is in contrast to HIV-1 RT, in which an ATP binding site is present in the WT RT but differs from that of the AZT resistant enzyme.

  • A molecular switch in immunodominant HIV-1-specific CD8 T-cell epitopes shapes differential HLA-restricted escape

  • Background: Presentation of identical HIV-1 peptides by closely related Human Leukocyte Antigen class I (HLAI) molecules can select distinct patterns of escape mutation that have a significant impact on viral fitness and disease progression. The molecular mechanisms by which HLAI micropolymorphisms can induce differential HIV-1 escape patterns within identical peptide epitopes remain unknown. Results: Here, we undertook genetic and structural analyses of two immunodominant HIV-1 peptides, Gag180–188 (TPQDLNTML, TL9-p24) and Nef71–79 (RPQVPLRPM, RM9-Nef) that are among the most highly targeted epitopes in the global HIV-1 epidemic. We show that single polymorphisms between different alleles of the HLA-B7 superfamily can induce a conformational switch in peptide conformation that is associated with differential HLAI-specific escape mutation and immune control. A dominant R71K mutation in the Nef71-79 occurred in those with HLA-B*07:02 but not B*42:01/02 or B*81:01. No structural difference in the HLA-epitope complexes was detected to explain this observation. Conclusions: These data suggest that identical peptides presented through very similar HLAI landscapes are recognized as distinct epitopes and provide a novel structural mechanism for previously observed differential HIV-1 escape and disease progression.

  • Reviewer acknowledgement 2014

  • Contributing reviewersRetrovirology would like to sincerely thank the following for giving their time and expertise to review manuscripts for the journal in 2014. Their support for the journal is greatly appreciated.

  • An integrated map of HIV genome-wide variation from a population perspective

  • Background: The HIV pandemic is characterized by extensive genetic variability, which has challenged the development of HIV drugs and vaccines. Although HIV genomes have been classified into different types, groups, subtypes and recombinants, a comprehensive study that maps HIV genome-wide diversity at the population level is still lacking to date. This study aims to characterize HIV genomic diversity in large-scale sequence populations, and to identify driving factors that shape HIV genome diversity. Results: A total of 2996 full-length genomic sequences from 1705 patients infected with 16 major HIV groups, subtypes and circulating recombinant forms (CRFs) were analyzed along with structural, immunological and peptide inhibitor information. Average nucleotide diversity of HIV genomes was almost 50% between HIV-1 and HIV-2 types, 37.5% between HIV-1 groups, 14.7% between HIV-1 subtypes, 8.2% within individual HIV-1 subtypes and less than 1% within single patients. Along the HIV genome, diversity patterns and compositions of nucleotides and amino acids were highly similar across different groups, subtypes and CRFs. Current HIV-derived peptide inhibitors were predominantly derived from conserved, solvent accessible and intrinsically ordered structures in the HIV-1 subtype B genome. We identified these conserved regions in Capsid, Nucleocapsid, Protease, Integrase, Reverse transcriptase, Vpr and the GP41 N terminus as potential drug targets. In the analysis of factors that impact HIV-1 genomic diversity, we focused on protein multimerization, immunological constraints and HIV-human protein interactions. We found that amino acid diversity in monomeric proteins was higher than in multimeric proteins, and diversified positions were preferably located within human CD4 T cell and antibody epitopes. Moreover, intrinsic disorder regions in HIV-1 proteins coincided with high levels of amino acid diversity, facilitating a large number of interactions between HIV-1 and human proteins. Conclusions: This first large-scale analysis provided a detailed mapping of HIV genomic diversity and highlighted drug-target regions conserved across different groups, subtypes and CRFs. Our findings suggest that, in addition to the impact of protein multimerization and immune selective pressure on HIV-1 diversity, HIV-human protein interactions are facilitated by high variability within intrinsically disordered structures.

  • Elevated expression of LAG-3, but not PD-1, is associated with impaired iNKT cytokine production during chronic HIV-1 infection and treatment

  • Background: LAG-3 is a potent negative regulator of the immune response but its impact in HIV infection in poorly understood. Unlike exhaustion markers such as PD-1, Tim-3, 2B4 and CD160, LAG-3 is poorly expressed on bulk and antigen-specific T cells during chronic HIV infection and its expression on innate lymphocyte subsets is not well understood. The aim of this study was to assess LAG-3 expression and association with cellular dysfunction on T cells, NK cells and iNKT cells among a cohort of healthy and HIV-infected female sex workers in Nairobi, Kenya. Results: Ex vivo LAG-3 expression was measured by multiparametric flow cytometry, and plasma cytokine/chemokine concentrations measured by bead array. Although LAG-3 expression on bulk T cells was significantly increased among HIV-infected women, the proportion of cells expressing the marker was extremely low. In contrast, LAG-3 was more highly expressed on NK and iNKT cells and was not reduced among women treated with ART. To assess the functional impact of LAG-3 on iNKT cells, iNKT cytokine production was measured in response to lipid (αGalCer) and PMA/Io stimulation by both flow cytometry and cytokine bead array. iNKT cytokine production is profoundly altered by both HIV infection and treatment, and LAG-3, but not PD-1, expression is associated with a reduction in iNKT IFNγ production. Conclusions: LAG-3 does not appear to mediate T cell exhaustion in this African population, but is instead expressed on innate lymphocyte subsets including iNKT cells. HIV infection alters iNKT cytokine production patterns and LAG-3 expression is uniquely associated with iNKT dysfunction. The continued expression of LAG-3 during treatment suggests it may contribute to the lack of innate immune reconstitution commonly observed during ART.

  • HIV-1 IN/Pol recruits LEDGF/p75 into viral particles

  • Background: The dynamic interaction between HIV and its host governs the replication of the virus and the study of the virus-host interplay is key to understand the viral lifecycle. The host factor lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) tethers the HIV preintegration complex to the chromatin through a direct interaction with integrase (IN). Small molecules that bind the LEDGF/p75 binding pocket of the HIV IN dimer (LEDGINs) block HIV replication through a multimodal mechanism impacting early and late stage replication including HIV maturation. Furthermore, LEDGF/p75 has been identified as a Pol interaction partner. This raised the question whether LEDGF/p75 besides acting as a molecular tether in the target cell, also affects late steps of HIV replication. Results: LEDGF/p75 is recruited into HIV-1 particles through direct interaction with the viral IN (or Pol polyprotein) and is a substrate for HIV-1 protease. Incubation in the presence of HIV-1 protease inhibitors resulted in detection of full-length LEDGF/p75 in purified viral particles. We also demonstrate that inhibition of LEDGF/p75-IN interaction by specific mutants or LEDGINs precludes incorporation of LEDGF/p75 in virions, underscoring the specificity of the uptake. LEDGF/p75 depletion did however not result in altered LEDGIN potency. Conclusion: Together, these results provide evidence for an IN/Pol mediated uptake of LEDGF/p75 in viral particles and a specific cleavage by HIV protease. Understanding of the possible role of LEDGF/p75 or its cleavage fragments in the viral particle awaits further experimentation.

  • The HIV-1 Antisense Protein (ASP) induces CD8 T cell responses during chronic infection

  • Background: CD8+ T cells recognize HIV-1 epitopes translated from a gene’s primary reading frame (F1) and any one of its five alternative reading frames (ARFs) in the forward (F2, F3) or reverse (R1-3) directions. The 3’ end of HIV-1’s proviral coding strand contains a conserved sequence that is directly overlapping but antiparallel to the env gene (ARF R2) and encodes for a putative antisense HIV-1 protein called ASP. ASP expression has been demonstrated in vitro using HIV-transfected cell lines or infected cells. Although antibodies to ASP were previously detected in patient sera, T cell recognition of ASP-derived epitopes has not been evaluated. We therefore investigated the ex vivo and in vitro induction of ASP-specific T cell responses as a measure of immune recognition and protein expression during HIV-1 infection. Results: A panel of overlapping peptides was initially designed from the full-length ASP sequence to perform a global assessment of T cell responses. Recognition of ASP-derived antigens was evaluated in an IFN-γELISpot assay using PBMCs from HIV-1 seropositive and seronegative individuals. Eight of 25 patients had positive responses to ASP antigens and none of the seronegative donors responded. As a complimentary approach, a second set of antigens was designed using HLA-I binding motifs and affinities. Two ASP-derived peptides with high predicted binding affinities for HLA-A*02 (ASP-YL9) and HLA-B*07 (ASP-TL10) were tested using PBMCs from HIV-1 seropositive and seronegative individuals who expressed the matching HLA-I-restricting allele. We found that HLA-I-restricted ASP peptides were only recognized by CD8+ T cells from patients with the relevant HLA-I and did not induce responses in any of the seronegative donors or patients who do not express the restrictive HLA alleles. Further, ASP-YL9-specific CD8+ T cells had functional profiles that were similar to a previously described HLA-A*02-restricted epitope (Gag-SL9). Specific recognition of ASP-YL9 by CD8+ T cells was also demonstrated by tetramer staining using cells from an HLA-A*02 HIV-infected patient. Conclusion: Our results provide the first description of CD8+ T cell-mediated immune responses to ASP in HIV-1-infected patients, demonstrating that ASP is expressed during infection. Our identification of epitopes within ASP has implications for designing HIV vaccines.

  • Role of PD-1 co-inhibitory pathway in HIV infection and potential therapeutic options

  • Virus-specific CD8+ T cells play an important role in controlling viral infections including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. However, during chronic HIV infection, virus-specific CD8+ T cells undergo functional exhaustion, lose effector functions and fail to control viral infection. HIV-specific CD8 T cells expressing high levels of co-inhibitory molecule programmed death-1 (PD-1) during the chronic infection and are characterized by lower proliferation, cytokine production, and cytotoxic abilities. Although, antiretroviral therapy has resulted in dramatic decline in HIV replication, there is no effective treatment currently available to eradicate viral reservoirs or restore virus-specific T or B-cell functions that may complement ART in order to eliminate the virus. In recent years, studies in mice and non-human primate models of HIV infection demonstrated the functional exhaustion of virus-specific T and B cells could be reversed by blockade of interaction between PD-1 and its cognate ligands (PD-L1 and PD-L2). In this review, we discuss recent advances in our understanding of PD-1 pathway in HIV/SIV infection and discuss the beneficial effects of PD-1 blockade during chronic HIV/SIV infection and its potential role as immunotherapy for HIV/AIDS.
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