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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

  • 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.

  • Discovery of prosimian and afrotherian foamy viruses and potential cross species transmissions amidst stable and ancient mammalian co-evolution

  • Background: Foamy viruses (FVs) are a unique subfamily of retroviruses that are widely distributed in mammals. Owing to the availability of sequences from diverse mammals coupled with their pattern of codivergence with their hosts, FVs have one of the best-understood viral evolutionary histories ever documented, estimated to have an ancient origin. Nonetheless, our knowledge of some parts of FV evolution, notably that of prosimian and afrotherian FVs, is far from complete due to the lack of sequence data. Results: Here, we report the complete genome of the first extant prosimian FV (PSFV) isolated from a lorisiforme galago (PSFVgal), and a novel partial endogenous viral element with high sequence similarity to FVs, present in the afrotherian Cape golden mole genome (ChrEFV). We also further characterize a previously discovered endogenous PSFV present in the aye-aye genome (PSFVaye). Using phylogenetic methods and available FV sequence data, we show a deep divergence and stable co-evolution of FVs in eutherian mammals over 100 million years. Nonetheless, we found that the evolutionary histories of bat, aye-aye, and New World monkey FVs conflict with the evolutionary histories of their hosts. By combining sequence analysis and biogeographical knowledge, we propose explanations for these mismatches in FV-host evolutionary history. Conclusion: Our discovery of ChrEFV has expanded the FV host range to cover the whole eutherian clade, and our evolutionary analyses suggest a stable mammalian FV-host co-speciation pattern which extends as deep as the exafroplacentalian basal diversification. Nonetheless, two possible cases of host switching were observed. One was among New World monkey FVs, and the other involves PSFVaye and a bat FV which may involve cross-species transmission at the level of mammalian orders. Our results highlight the value of integrating multiple sources of information to elucidate the evolutionary history of viruses, including continental and geographical histories, ancestral host locations, in addition to the natural history of host and virus.

  • Microarray analysis reveals global modulation of endogenous retroelement transcription by microbes

  • Background: A substantial proportion of both the mouse and human genomes comprise of endogenous retroelements (REs), which include endogenous retroviruses. Over evolutionary time, REs accumulate inactivating mutations or deletions and thus lose the ability to replicate. Additionally, REs can be transcriptionally repressed by dedicated mechanisms of the host. Nevertheless, many of them still possess and express intact open reading frames, and their transcriptional activity has been associated with many physiological and pathological processes of the host. However, this association remains tenuous due to incomplete understanding of the mechanism by which RE transcription is regulated. Here, we use a bioinformatics tool to examine RE transcriptional activity, measured by microarrays, in murine and human immune cells responding to microbial stimulation. Results: Immune cell activation by microbial signals in vitro caused extensive changes in the transcription not only of the host genes involved in the immune response, but also of numerous REs. Modulated REs were frequently found near or embedded within similarly-modulated host genes. Focusing on probes reporting single-integration, intergenic REs, revealed extensive transcriptional responsiveness of these elements to microbial signals. Microbial stimulation modulated RE expression in a cell-intrinsic manner. In line with these results, the transcriptional activity of numerous REs followed characteristics in different tissues according to exposure to environmental microbes and was further heavily altered during viral infection or imbalances with intestinal microbiota, both in mice and humans. Conclusions: Together, these results highlight the utility of improved methodologies in assessing RE transcription profiles in both archived and new microarray data sets. More importantly, application of this methodology suggests that immune activation, as a result of infection with pathogens or dysbiosis with commensal microbes, causes global modulation of RE transcription. RE responsiveness to external stimuli should, therefore, be considered in any association between RE transcription and disease.

  • The role of A-kinase anchoring protein 95-like protein in annealing of tRNALys3 to HIV-1 RNA

  • Background: RNA helicase A (RHA), a DExH box protein, promotes annealing of tRNALys3, a primer for reverse transcription, to HIV-1 RNA and assembles into virus particles. A-kinase anchoring protein 95-like protein (HAP95) is a binding partner of RHA. The role of HAP95 in the annealing of tRNALys3 was examined in this study. Results: HAP95 associates with the reverse transcriptase region of Pol protein of HIV-1. Decreasing endogenous HAP95 in HIV-1-producing 293T cells by siRNA reduces the amount of tRNALys3 annealed on viral RNA. This defect was further deteriorated by knockdown of RHA in the same cells, suggesting a cooperative effect between these two proteins. Biochemical assay in vitro using purified GST-tagged HAP95 shows that HAP95 may inhibit the activity of RHA. Conclusion: The results support a hypothesis that HAP95 may transiently block RHA’s activity to protect the annealed tRNALys3 on viral RNA in the cells from removing by RHA during the packaging of RHA into virus particles, thus facilitating the annealing of tRNALys3 to HIV-1 RNA.
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