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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

  • On the primer binding site mutation that appears and disappears during HIV and SIV replication

  • A recent study by Fennessey et al. (Retrovirology 12:49, 2015 ) described the optimization of a popular SIV clone by removal of four suboptimal point mutations. One of these mutations is present in a non-coding part of the viral genome and is probed in that study in more detail because of some fascinating properties. This primer binding site (PBS) mutation reverts rapidly to the wild-type sequence, which the authors interpret as indicating that this mutation exerts a profound fitness impact. The authors proposed the involvement of a cellular DNA repair mechanism in the reversion. Furthermore, it was suggested that premature termination of reverse transcription can explain why some of the viral progeny still contained the mutant sequence. However, we argue that all these special properties are a direct consequence of the unique nature of the viral PBS motif. The PBS binds the tRNA primer for reverse transcription and the viral progeny inherits either the sequence of the cellular tRNA or the PBS sequence of the viral RNA genome. The presence of a variant tRNA species explains the rapid appearance and disappearance of a variant PBS sequence.

  • HIV-1 protease cleaves the serine-threonine kinases RIPK1 and RIPK2

  • Background: HIV-1 protease (PR) is essential for viral infectivity as it cleaves Gag and Gag-Pol polyprotein precursors during viral maturation. Recent evidence suggests that cellular proteins can also be cleaved by PR, perhaps representing an important viral strategy to counter host defense mechanisms. Receptor-interacting protein kinase 1 (RIPK1) and RIPK2 belong to a family of serine/threonine kinases with conserved domain architecture and important functions in apoptosis, necrosis and innate immunity. Results: We found that RIPK1 and RIPK2 but not other members of the RIP kinase family are cleaved by HIV-1 PR. In RIPK1, we identified a putative PR cleavage site; a mutation at this site rendered RIPK1 resistant to PR cleavage. RIPK1 and RIPK2 were cleaved during HIV-1 infection of T cell lines or primary activated CD4 + T cells. Interfering with the viral life cycle at different stages by the addition of specific inhibitors against RT, integrase, or PR, completely prevented RIPK1 and RIPK2 cleavage. Cleavage of RIPK1 disrupted RIPK1/RIPK3 complex formation and RIPK1-mediated induction of NF-kB. Conclusions: These findings indicate that RIPK1 and RIPK2 are targets of HIV-1 PR activity during infection, and their inactivation may contribute to modulation of cell death and host defense pathways by HIV-1.

  • Furin-dependent CCL17-fused recombinant toxin controls HTLV-1 infection by targeting and eliminating infected CCR4-expressing cells in vitro and in vivo

  • Background: Adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) is caused by human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection. However, there are no therapies to prevent ATL development in high-risk asymptomatic carriers. To develop a therapy targeting HTLV-1-infected cells that are known to express CCR4 frequently, we tested whether truncated Pseudomonas exotoxin (PE38) fused to a CCR4 ligand, CCL17/thymus and activation-regulated chemokine (TARC), selectively eliminates such cells. Results: Our data show that TARC–PE38 efficiently killed HTLV-1-infected cell lines. It also shrank HTLV-1-associated solid tumors in an infected-cell-engrafted mouse model. In HTLV-1-positive humanized mice, TARC–PE38 markedly inhibited the proliferation of HTLV-1-infected human CD4 + CD25 + or CD4 + CD25 + CCR4 + cells and reduced the proviral loads (PVLs) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Importantly, TARC–PE38 significantly reduced the PVLs in PBMCs obtained from asymptomatic carriers. We show that the cytotoxicity of TARC–PE38 is mediated by the expression of the proprotein convertase, furin. The expression of furin was enhanced in HTLV-1-infected cells and correlated positively with PVLs in HTLV-1-infected individuals, suggesting that infected cells are more susceptible to TARC–PE38 than normal cells. Conclusions: TARC–PE38 robustly controls HTLV-1 infection by eliminating infected cells in both a CCR4- and furin-dependent manner, indicating the excellent therapeutic potential of TARC–PE38.

  • Evidence that the endosomal sorting complex required for transport-II (ESCRT-II) is required for efficient human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) production

  • Background: Egress of a number of different virus species from infected cells depends on proteins of the endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRT) pathway. HIV has also hijacked this system to bud viruses outward from the cell surface. How ESCRT-I activates ESCRT-III in this process remains unclear with conflicting published evidence for the requirement of ESCRT-II which fulfils this role in other systems. We investigated the role of ESCRT-II using knockdown mediated by siRNA and shRNA, mutants which prevent ESCRT-I/ESCRT-II interaction and a CRISPR/Cas9 EAP45 knockout cell line. Results: Depletion or elimination of ESCRT-II components from an HIV infected cell produces two distinct effects. The overall production of HIV-1 Gag is reduced leading to a diminished amount of intracellular virion protein. In addition depletion of ESCRT-II produces an effect similar to that seen when ESCRT-I and -III components are depleted, that of a delayed Gag p26 to p24 +p2 cleavage associated with a reduction in export of virion particles and a visible reduction in budding efficiency in virus producing cells. Mutants that interfere with ESCRT-I interacting with ESCRT-II similarly reduce virus export. The export defect is independent of the decrease in overall Gag production. Using a mutant virus which cannot use the ALIX mediated export pathway exacerbates the decrease in virus export seen when ESCRT-II is depleted. ESCRT-II knockdown does not lead to complete elimination of virus release suggesting that the late domain role of ESCRT-II is required for optimal efficiency of viral budding but that there are additional pathways that the virus can employ to facilitate this. Conclusion: ESCRT-II contributes to efficient HIV virion production and export by more than one pathway; both by a transcriptional or post transcriptional mechanism and also by facilitating efficient virus export from the cell through interactions with other ESCRT components.

  • Inducible nitric oxide synthase mediates DNA double strand breaks in Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus Type 1-induced leukemia/lymphoma

  • Background: Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL) is an aggressive and fatal malignancy of CD4 + T-lymphocytes infected by the Human T-Cell Virus Type 1 (HTLV-1). The molecular mechanisms of transformation in ATLL have not been fully elucidated. However, genomic instability and cumulative DNA damage during the long period of latency is believed to be essential for HTLV-1 induced leukemogenesis. In addition, constitutive activation of the NF-κB pathway was found to be a critical determinant for transformation. Whether a connection exists between NF-κB activation and accumulation of DNA damage is not clear. We recently found that the HTLV-1 viral oncoprotein, Tax, the activator of the NF-κB pathway, induces DNA double strand breaks (DSBs). Results: Here, we investigated whether any of the NF-κB target genes are critical in inducing DSBs. Of note, we found that inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) that catalyzes the production of nitric oxide (NO) in macrophages, neutrophils and T-cells is over expressed in HTLV-1 infected and Tax-expressing cells. Interestingly, we show that in HTLV-1 infected cells, iNOS expression is Tax-dependent and specifically requires the activation of the classical NF-κB and JAK/STAT pathways. A dramatic reduction of DSBs was observed when NO production was inhibited, indicating that Tax induces DSBs through the activation of NO synthesis. Conclusions: Determination of the impact of NO on HTLV-1-induced leukemogenesis opens a new area for treatment or prevention of ATLL and perhaps other cancers in which NO is produced.

  • dUTPase: the frequently overlooked enzyme encoded by many retroviruses

  • Retroviruses are among the best studied viruses in last decades due to their pivotal involvement in cellular processes and, most importantly, in causing human diseases, most notably—acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) that is triggered by human immunodeficiency viruses types 1 and 2 (HIV-1 and HIV-2, respectively). Numerous studied were conducted to understand the involvement of the three cardinal retroviral enzymes, reverse transcriptase, integrase and protease, in the life cycle of the viruses. These studies have led to the development of many inhibitors of these enzymes as anti-retroviral specific drugs that are used for routine treatments of HIV/AIDS patients. Interestingly, a fourth virus-encoded enzyme, the deoxyuridine 5′-triphosphate nucleotidohydrolase (dUTPase) is also found in several major retroviral groups. The presence and the importance of this enzyme to the life cycle of retroviruses were usually overlooked by most retrovirologists, although the occurrence of dUTPases, particularly in beta-retroviruses and in non-primate retroviruses, is known for more than 20 years. Only more recently, retroviral dUTPases were brought into the limelight and were shown in several cases to be essential for viral replication. Therefore, it is likely that future studies on this enzyme will advance our knowledge to a level that will allow designing novel, specific and potent anti-dUTPase drugs that are effective in combating retroviral diseases. The aim of this review is to give concise background information on dUTPases in general and to summarize the most relevant data on retroviral dUTPases and their involvement in the replication processes and pathogenicity of the viruses, as well as in possibly-associated human diseases.

  • Efficacy of topical tenofovir against transmission of a tenofovir-resistant SHIV in macaques

  • Background: Topically delivered tenofovir (TFV) from intravaginal rings, tablets, or gels is being evaluated for HIV prevention. We previously demonstrated that TFV delivered vaginally by gel protected macaques from vaginal infection with SHIV. Here we investigated efficacy of the TFV gel against vaginal transmission of a TFV-resistant SHIV containing the K65R mutation (SHIV162P3 K65R ) and its relationship to drug levels in vaginal tissues. Results: SHIV162P3 K65R shows approximately a 5-fold reduction in susceptibility to TFV compared to wild-type SHIV. Efficacy was evaluated in pig-tailed macaques exposed vaginally twice-weekly (up to 10 weeks) to SHIV162P3 K65R 30 min after receiving placebo (n = 6) or 1% TFV (n = 6) gel. Four of the six controls were infected after a median of 5 exposures. In contrast, five of six macaques that received TFV gel remained uninfected after 20 vaginal SHIV162P3 K65R exposures, resulting in an estimated efficacy of 75%. The mean intracellular TFV-diphosphate (TFV-DP) concentrations in vaginal lymphocytes 4 h after a single gel dose were found to be high (1,631 fmol/10 6 cells, range 492–3,847) and within the in vitro IC 75 range (1,206 fmol/10 6 cells) for SHIV162P3 K65R . Conclusion: Both the modest resistance conferred by K65R and the high TFV-DP exposure in vaginal lymphocytes, likely explain the observed protection. The findings in this model do not predict complete loss of protection by topical TFV against vaginal exposure to HIV-1 K65R viruses and provide a tissue drug target for high efficacy. These data will facilitate the development of TFV delivery platforms that have high activity on both wild-type and TFV-resistant viruses.

  • Human and murine APOBEC3s restrict replication of koala retrovirus by different mechanisms

  • Background: Koala retrovirus (KoRV) is an endogenous and exogenous retrovirus of koalas that may cause lymphoma. As for many other gammaretroviruses, the KoRV genome can potentially encode an alternate form of Gag protein, glyco-gag. Results: In this study, a convenient assay for assessing KoRV infectivity in vitro was employed: the use of DERSE cells (initially developed to search for infectious xenotropic murine leukemia-like viruses). Using infection of DERSE and other human cell lines (HEK293T), no evidence for expression of glyco-gag by KoRV was found, either in expression of glyco-gag protein or changes in infectivity when the putative glyco-gag reading frame was mutated. Since glyco-gag mediates resistance of Moloney murine leukemia virus to the restriction factor APOBEC3, the sensitivity of KoRV (wt or putatively mutant for glyco-gag) to restriction by murine (mA3) or human APOBEC3s was investigated. Both mA3 and hA3G potently inhibited KoRV infectivity. Interestingly, hA3G restriction was accompanied by extensive G → A hypermutation during reverse transcription while mA3 restriction was not. Glyco-gag status did not affect the results. Conclusions: These results indicate that the mechanisms of APOBEC3 restriction of KoRV by hA3G and mA3 differ (deamination dependent vs. independent) and glyco-gag does not play a role in the restriction.

  • Determinants in HIV-2 Env and tetherin required for functional interaction

  • Background: The interferon-inducible factor BST-2/tetherin blocks the release of nascent virions from the surface of infected cells for certain enveloped virus families. The primate lentiviruses have evolved several counteracting mechanisms which, in the case of HIV-2, is a function of its Env protein. We sought to further understand the features of the Env protein and tetherin that are important for this interaction, and to evaluate the selective pressure on HIV-2 to maintain such an activity. Results: By examining Env mutants with changes in the ectodomain of the protein (virus ROD14) or the cytoplasmic tail (substitution Y707A) that render the proteins unable to counteract tetherin, we determined that an interaction between Env and tetherin is important for this activity. Furthermore, this Env-tetherin interaction required an alanine face in the tetherin ectodomain, although insertion of this domain into an artificial tetherin-like protein was not sufficient to confer sensitivity to the HIV-2 Env. The replication of virus carrying the ROD14 substitutions was significantly slower than the matched wild-type virus, but it acquired second-site mutations during passaging in the cytoplasmic tail of Env which restored the ability of the protein to both bind to and counteract tetherin. Conclusions: These results shed light on the interaction between HIV-2 and tetherin, suggesting a physical interaction that maps to the ectodomains of both proteins and indicating a strong selection pressure to maintain an anti-tetherin activity in the HIV-2 Env.

  • Activated regulatory T cells suppress effector NK cell responses by an IL-2-mediated mechanism during an acute retroviral infection

  • Background: It is well established that effector T cell responses are crucial for the control of most virus infections, but they are often tightly controlled by regulatory T cells (Treg) to minimize immunopathology. NK cells also contribute to virus control but it is not known if their antiviral effect is influenced by virus-induced Tregs as well. We therefore analyzed whether antiretroviral NK cell functions are inhibited by Tregs during an acute Friend retrovirus infection of mice. Results: Selective depletion of Tregs by using the transgenic DEREG mouse model resulted in improved NK cell proliferation, maturation and effector cell differentiation. Suppression of NK cell functions depended on IL-2 consumption by Tregs, which could be overcome by specific NK cell stimulation with an IL-2/anti-IL-2 mAb complex. Conclusions: The current study demonstrates that virus-induced Tregs indeed inhibit antiviral NK cell responses and describes a targeted immunotherapy that can abrogate the suppression of NK cells by Tregs.
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