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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

  • Functional bottlenecks for generation of HIV-1 intersubtype llt;itggt;Envllt;/itggt; recombinants

  • Background: Intersubtype recombination is a powerful driving force for HIV evolution, impacting both HIV-1 diversity within an infected individual and within the global epidemic. This study examines if viral protein function/fitness is the major constraint shaping selection of recombination hotspots in replication-competent HIV-1 progeny. A better understanding of the interplay between viral protein structure-function and recombination may provide insights into both vaccine design and drug development. Results: In vitro HIV-1 dual infections were used to recombine subtypes A and D isolates and examine breakpoints in the Env glycoproteins. The entire env genes of 21 A/D recombinants with breakpoints in gp120 were non-functional when cloned into the laboratory strain, NL4-3. Likewise, cloning of A/D gp120 coding regions also produced dead viruses with non-functional Envs. 4/9 replication-competent viruses with functional Env’s were obtained when just the V1-V5 regions of these same A/D recombinants (i.e. same A/D breakpoints as above) were cloned into NL4-3. Conclusion: These findings on functional A/D Env recombinants combined with structural models of Env suggest a conserved interplay between the C1 domain with C5 domain of gp120 and extracellular domain of gp41. Models also reveal a co-evolution within C1, C5, and ecto-gp41 domains which might explain the paucity of intersubtype recombination in the gp120 V1-V5 regions, despite their hypervariability. At least HIV-1 A/D intersubtype recombination in gp120 may result in a C1 from one subtype incompatible with a C5/gp41 from another subtype.

  • Single amino acid substitution (G42E) in the receptor binding domain of mouse mammary tumour virus envelope protein facilitates infection of non-murine cells in a transferrin receptor 1-independent manner

  • Background: Mouse mammary tumour virus (MMTV) is a betaretrovirus that infects rodent cells and uses mouse tranferrin receptor 1 (TfR1) for cell entry. Several MMTV strains have been shown to productively infect, in addition to murine cells, various heterologous cell lines including those of human origin, albeit less efficiently than murine cells. Furthermore, there have been reports that the continued passage of MMTV in heterologous cell lines gives rise to novel variants that are able to infect naive non-murine cells with higher efficiency than the parental virus. Results: We show that MMTV(C3H), like other MMTV strains, that had undergone a number of replication cycles in non-murine cells displayed an increased replication kinetic, as compared to parental virus, when applied on naive human cells. Sequence analysis of several replication kinetic variants and the parental virus, together with calculation of the ratio of non-synonymous to synonymous mutations at individual codons, revealed that several regions within the viral genome were under strong positive selection pressure during viral replication in human cells. The mutation responsible, at least in part, for the phenotypic change was subsequently mapped to the segment of env encoding the receptor binding site (F40HGFR44). Introduction of the identified mutation, leading to single amino acid substitution (G42E), into egfp-containing recombinant MMTV virions enhanced their ability to bind to and infect human cells. Interestingly, neither the replication kinetic mutant nor the parental virus required human TfR1 for infection. Knock-out of TFR1 gene from the human genome did not decrease the susceptibility of Hs578T cells to virus infection. Furthermore, the expression of human TfR1, in contrast to mouse TfR1, did not enhance the susceptibility of MMTV-resistant Chinese hamster ovary cells. Thus, human TfR1 is dispensable for infection and another cell surface molecule mediates the MMTV entry into human cells. Conclusion: Taken together, our data explain the mechanism enabling MMTV to form‘host-range variants’ in non-murine cells that has been known for a long time, the basis of which remained obscure. Our findings may expand our understanding of how viruses gain capability to cross species-specific barriers to infect new hosts.

  • Apoptosis-induced activation of HIV-1 in latently infected cell lines

  • Background: Despite much work, safe and effective approaches to attack and deplete the long-lived reservoir of cells latently infected with HIV-1 remain an elusive goal. Patients infected with HIV-1 treated with cytotoxic agents or bone marrow transplantation can experience decreases in the reservoir of HIV-1 latently infected cells. Other viruses capable of long-term latency, such as herpesviruses, can sense host cell apoptosis and respond by initiating replication. These observations suggest that other viruses capable of long-term latency, like HIV-1, might also sense when its host cell is about to undergo apoptosis and respond by initiating replication. Results: Pro-monocytic (U1) and lymphoid (ACH-2) HIV-1 persistently infected cell lines were treated with cytotoxic drugs– doxorubicin, etoposide, fludarabine phosphate, or vincristine– and activation of latent HIV-1 was evaluated using assays for HIV-1 RNA and p24 production. Both cell lines showed dose-dependent increases in apoptosis and associated HIV-1 activation following exposure to the cytotoxic agents. Pretreatment of the cells with the pan-caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK prior to exposure to the cytotoxic agents inhibited apoptosis and viral activation. Direct exposure of the latently infected cell lines to activated caspases also induced viral replication. HIV-1 virions produced in association with host cell apoptosis were infectious. Conclusions: The results indicate that latent HIV-1 can sense when its host cell is undergoing apoptosis and responds by completing its replication cycle. The results may help explain why patients treated with cytotoxic regimens for bone marrow transplantation showed reductions in the reservoir of latently infected cells. The results also suggest that the mechanisms that HIV-1 uses to sense and respond to host cell apoptosis signals may represent helpful new targets for approaches to attack and deplete the long-lived reservoir of cells latently infected with HIV-1.

  • Identification of potential HIV restriction factors by combining evolutionary genomic signatures with functional analyses

  • Background: Known antiretroviral restriction factors are encoded by genes that are under positive selection pressure, induced during HIV-1 infection, up-regulated by interferons, and/or interact with viral proteins. To identify potential novel restriction factors, we performed genome-wide scans for human genes sharing molecular and evolutionary signatures of known restriction factors and tested the anti-HIV-1 activity of the most promising candidates. Results: Our analyses identified 30 human genes that share characteristics of known restriction factors. Functional analyses of 27 of these candidates showed that over-expression of a strikingly high proportion of them significantly inhibited HIV-1 without causing cytotoxic effects. Five factors (APOL1, APOL6, CD164, TNFRSF10A, TNFRSF10D) suppressed infectious HIV-1 production in transfected 293T cells by ggt;90% and six additional candidates (FCGR3A, CD3E, OAS1, GBP5, SPN, IFI16) achieved this when the virus was lacking intact accessory vpr, vpu and nef genes. Unexpectedly, over-expression of two factors (IL1A, SP110) significantly increased infectious HIV-1 production. Mechanistic studies suggest that the newly identified potential restriction factors act at different steps of the viral replication cycle, including proviral transcription and production of viral proteins. Finally, we confirmed that mRNA expression of most of these candidate restriction factors in primary CD4+ T cells is significantly increased by type I interferons. Conclusions: A limited number of human genes share multiple characteristics of genes encoding for known restriction factors. Most of them display anti-retroviral activity in transient transfection assays and are expressed in primary CD4+ T cells.

  • llt;itggt;In viriollt;/itggt; SHAPE analysis of tRNAllt;supggt;Lys3llt;/supggt; annealing to HIV-1 genomic RNA in wild type and protease-deficient virus

  • Background: tRNALys3 annealing to the viral RNA of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) is an essential step in the virus life cycle, because this tRNA serves as the primer for initiating reverse transcription. tRNALys3 annealing to viral RNA occurs in two steps. First, Gag promotes annealing of tRNALys3 to the viral RNA during cytoplasmic HIV-1 assembly. Second, mature nucleocapsid (NCp7), produced from the processing of Gag by viral protease during viral budding from the cell, remodels the annealed complex to form a more stable interaction between the viral RNA and tRNALys3, resulting in a more tightly bound and efficient primer for reverse transcription. Results: In this report, we have used in virio SHAPE analysis of both the 5´-untranslated region in HIV-1 RNA and the annealed tRNALys3 to determine structural differences of the annealed complex that occur between protease-negative (Pr-) and wild type viruses. Our results indicate that the weaker binding of tRNALys3 annealed by Gag in Pr- virions reflects both missing interactions of tRNALys3 with viral RNA regions in the upper PBS stem, and a weaker interaction with the internal stem-loop found within the unannealed primer binding site in viral RNA. Conclusions: We propose secondary structure models for the tRNALys3/viral RNA annealed complexes in PR- and wild type viruses that support the two-step annealing model by showing that Gag promotes a partial annealing of tRNALys3 to HIV-1 viral RNA, followed by a more complete annealing by NCp7.

  • HIV-1 immune activation induces Siglec-1 expression and enhances viral llt;itggt;trans-llt;/itggt;infection in blood and tissue myeloid cells

  • Background: Myeloid cells are key players in the recognition and response of the host against invading viruses. Paradoxically, upon HIV-1 infection, myeloid cells might also promote viral pathogenesis through trans-infection, a mechanism that promotes HIV-1 transmission to target cells via viral capture and storage. The receptor Siglec-1 (CD169) potently enhances HIV-1 trans-infection and is regulated by immune activating signals present throughout the course of HIV-1 infection, such as interferonα (IFNα). Results: Here we show that IFNα-activated dendritic cells, monocytes and macrophages have an enhanced ability to capture and trans-infect HIV-1 via Siglec-1 recognition of viral membrane gangliosides. Monocytes from untreated HIV-1-infected individuals trans-infect HIV-1 via Siglec-1, but this capacity diminishes after effective antiretroviral treatment. Furthermore, Siglec-1 is expressed on myeloid cells residing in lymphoid tissues, where it can mediate viral trans-infection. Conclusions: Siglec-1 on myeloid cells could fuel novel CD4+ T-cell infections and contribute to HIV-1 dissemination in vivo.

  • Key determinants of target DNA recognition by retroviral intasomes

  • Background: Retroviral integration favors weakly conserved palindrome sequences at the sites of viral DNA joining and generates a short (4–6 bp) duplication of host DNA flanking the provirus. We previously determined two key parameters that underlie the target DNA preference for prototype foamy virus (PFV) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integration: flexible pyrimidine (Y)/purine (R) dinucleotide steps at the centers of the integration sites, and base contacts with specific integrase residues, such as Ala188 in PFV integrase and Ser119 in HIV-1 integrase. Here we examined the dinucleotide preference profiles of a range of retroviruses and correlated these findings with respect to length of target site duplication (TSD). Results: Integration datasets covering six viral genera and the three lengths of TSD were accessed from the literature or generated in this work. All viruses exhibited significant enrichments of flexible YR and/or selection against rigid RY dinucleotide steps at the centers of integration sites, and the magnitude of this enrichment inversely correlated with TSD length. The DNA sequence environments of in vivo-generated HIV-1 and PFV sites were consistent with integration into nucleosomes, however, the local sequence preferences were largely independent of target DNA chromatinization. Integration sites derived from cells infected with the gammaretrovirus reticuloendotheliosis virus strain A (Rev-A), which yields a 5 bp TSD, revealed the targeting of global chromatin features most similar to those of Moloney murine leukemia virus, which yields a 4 bp duplication. In vitro assays revealed that Rev-A integrase interacts with and is catalytically stimulated by cellular bromodomain containing 4 protein. Conclusions: Retroviral integrases have likely evolved to bend target DNA to fit scissile phosphodiester bonds into two active sites for integration, and viruses that cut target DNA with a 6 bp stagger may not need to bend DNA as sharply as viruses that cleave with 4 bp or 5 bp staggers. For PFV and HIV-1, the selection of signature bases and central flexibility at sites of integration is largely independent of chromatin structure. Furthermore, global Rev-A integration is likely directed to chromatin features by bromodomain and extraterminal domain proteins.

  • Impaired Th17 polarization of phenotypically naive CD4llt;supggt;+llt;/supggt; T-cells during chronic HIV-1 infection and potential restoration with early ART

  • Background: Depletion of mucosal Th17 cells during HIV/SIV infections is a major cause for microbial translocation, chronic immune activation, and disease progression. Mechanisms contributing to Th17 deficit are not fully elucidated. Here we investigated alterations in the Th17 polarization potential of naive-like CD4+ T-cells, depletion of Th17-commited subsets during HIV pathogenesis, and Th17 restoration in response to antiretroviral therapy (ART). Results: Peripheral blood CD4+ T-cells expressing a naive-like phenotype (CD45RA+CCR7+) from chronically HIV-infected subjects receiving ART (CI on ART; median CD4 counts 592 cells/μl; viral load: llt;50 HIV-RNA copies/ml; time since infection: 156 months) compared to uninfected controls (HIV-) were impaired in their survival and Th17 polarization potential in vitro. In HIV- controls, IL-17A-producing cells mainly originated from naive-like T-cells with a regulatory phenotype (nTregs: CD25highCD127−FoxP3+) and from CD25+CD127+FoxP3− cells (DP, double positive). Th17-polarized conventional naive CD4+ T-cells (nT: CD25−CD127+FoxP3−) also produced IL17A, but at lower frequency compared to nTregs and DP. In CI on ART subjects, the frequency/counts of nTreg and DP were significantly diminished compared to HIV- controls, and this paucity was further associated with decreased proportions of memory T-cells producing IL-17A and expressing Th17 markers (CCR6+CD26+CD161+, mTh17). nTregs and DP compared to nT cells harbored superior levels of integrated/non-integrated HIV-DNA in CI on ART subjects, suggesting that permissiveness to integrative/abortive infection contributes to impaired survival and Th17 polarization of lineage-committed cells. A cross-sectional study in CI on ART subjects revealed that nTregs, DP and mTh17 counts were negatively correlated with the time post-infection ART was initiated and positively correlated with nadir CD4 counts. Finally, a longitudinal analysis in a HIV primary infection cohort demonstrated a tendency for increased nTreg, DP, and mTh17 counts with ART initiation during the first year of infection. Conclusions: These results support a model in which the paucity of phenotypically naive nTregs and DP cells, caused by integrative/abortive HIV infection and/or other mechanisms, contributes to Th17 deficiency in HIV-infected subjects. Early ART initiation, treatment intensification with integrase inhibitors, and/or other alternative interventions aimed at preserving/restoring the pool of cells prone to acquire Th17 functions may significantly improve mucosal immunity in HIV-infected subjects.

  • HIV-1 Tat immunization restores immune homeostasis and attacks the HAART-resistant blood HIV DNA: results of a randomized phase II exploratory clinical trial

  • Background: The phase II multicenter, randomized, open label, therapeutic trial (ISS T-002, Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00751595) was aimed at evaluating the immunogenicity and the safety of the biologically active HIV-1 Tat protein administered at 7.5 or 30 μg, given 3 or 5 times monthly, and at exploring immunological and virological disease biomarkers. The study duration was 48 weeks, however, vaccinees were followed until the last enrolled subject reached the 48 weeks.Reported are final data up to 144 weeks of follow-up. The ISS T-002 trial was conducted in 11 clinical centers in Italy on 168 HIV positive subjects under Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), anti-Tat Antibody (Ab) negative at baseline, with plasma viremia llt;50 copies/mL in the last 6 months prior to enrollment, and CD4+ T-cell number≥200 cells/μL. Subjects from a parallel observational study (ISS OBS T-002, Clinicaltrials.gov NCT0102455) enrolled at the same clinical sites with the same criteria constituted an external reference group to explore biomarkers of disease. Results: The vaccine was safe and well tolerated and induced anti-Tat Abs in most patients (79%), with the highest frequency and durability in the Tat 30 μg groups (89%) particularly when given 3 times (92%). Vaccination promoted a durable and significant restoration of T, B, natural killer (NK) cells, and CD4+ and CD8+ central memory subsets. Moreover, a significant reduction of blood proviral DNA was seen after week 72, particularly under PI-based regimens and with Tat 30 μg given 3 times (30 μg, 3x), reaching a predicted 70% decay after 3 years from vaccination with a half-life of 88 weeks. This decay was significantly associated with anti-Tat IgM and IgG Abs and neutralization of Tat-mediated entry of oligomeric Env in dendritic cells, which predicted HIV-1 DNA decay. Finally, the 30 μg, 3x group was the only one showing significant increases of NK cells and CD38+HLA-DR+/CD8+ T cells, a phenotype associated with increased killing activity in elite controllers. Conclusions: Anti-Tat immune responses are needed to restore immune homeostasis and effective anti-viral responses capable of attacking the virus reservoir. Thus, Tat immunization represents a promising pathogenesis-driven intervention to intensify HAART efficacy.

  • Genome-wide amplification of proviral sequences reveals new polymorphic HERV-K(HML-2) proviruses in humans and chimpanzees that are absent from genome assemblies

  • Background: To date, the human population census of proviruses of the Betaretrovirus–like human endogenous retroviral (HERV-K) (HML-2) family has been compiled from a limited number of complete genomes, making it certain that rare polymorphic loci are under-represented and are yet to be described. Results: Here we describe a suppression PCR-based method called genome-wide amplification of proviral sequences (GAPS) that selectively amplifies DNA fragments containing the termini of HERV-K(HML-2) proviral sequences and their flanking genomic sequences. We analysed the HERV-K(HML-2) proviral content of 101 unrelated humans, 4 common chimpanzees and three centre d’etude du polymorphisme humain (CEPH) pedigrees (44 individuals). The technique isolated HERV-K(HML-2) proviruses that had integrated in the genomes of the great apes throughout their divergence and included evolutionarily young elements still unfixed for presence/absence. Conclusions: By examining the HERV-K(HML-2) proviral content of 145 humans we detected a new insertionally polymorphic Type I HERV-K(HML-2) provirus. We also observed provirus versus solo long terminal repeat (LTR) polymorphism within humans at a previously unreported, but ancient, locus. Finally, we report two novel chimpanzee specific proviruses, one of which is dimorphic for a provirus versus solo LTR. Thus GAPS enables the isolation of uncharacterised HERV-K(HML-2) proviral sequences and provides a direct means to assess inter-individual genetic variation associated with HERV-K(HML-2) proviruses.
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