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Table of Contents for this page:

  • Current Issue
  • Current Issue of Retrovirology

    Retrovirology - Latest Articles

  • Triptolide inhibits human immunodeficiency virus type 1 replication by promoting proteasomal degradation of Tat protein

  • Background: Plants remain an important source of new drugs, new leads and new chemical entities. Triptolide is a diterpenoid epoxide isolated from Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F that possesses a broad range of bioactivities, including anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive and anti-tumor properties. The antiviral activity of triptolide against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) has not been reported. Results: In this study, nanomolar concentrations of triptolide were shown to potently inhibit HIV-1 replication in vitro. To identify the step(s) of the HIV-1 replication cycle affected by triptolide, time-of-addition studies, PCR analysis and direct transfection of viral genomic DNA were performed. The results of these experiments indicated that triptolide acts at the stage of viral gene transcription. In addition, a luciferase-based reporter assay that allows quantitative analysis of long terminal repeat (LTR)-driven transcription showed that Tat-induced LTR activation was impaired in the presence of triptolide. Moreover, Western blot analysis of exogenous gene expression (driven by the human elongation factor 1α subunit promoter) in transiently transfected cells revealed that triptolide specifically reduces the steady-state level of Tat protein, without suppressing global gene expression. Further studies showed that triptolide accelerates Tat protein degradation, which can be rescued by administration of the proteasome inhibitor MG132. Mutation analysis revealed that N-terminal domains of Tat protein and nuclear localization are required for triptolide to reduce steady-state level of Tat. Conclusion: This study suggests for the first time that triptolide exerts its anti-HIV-1 activity by specifically prompting the degradation of the virally encoded Tat protein, which is a novel mechanism of action for an anti-HIV-1 compound. This compound may serve as a starting point for developing a novel HIV-1 therapeutic approach or as a basic research tool for interrogating events during viral replication.

  • Reduced evolutionary rates in HIV-1 reveal extensive latency periods among replicating lineages

  • Background: HIV-1 can persist for the duration of a patient’s life due in part to its ability to hide from the immune system, and from antiretroviral drugs, in long-lived latent reservoirs. Latent forms of HIV-1 may also be disproportionally involved in transmission. Thus, it is important to detect and quantify latency in the HIV-1 life cycle. Results: We developed a novel molecular clock–based phylogenetic tool to investigate the prevalence of HIV-1 lineages that have experienced latency. The method removes alternative sources that may affect evolutionary rates, such as hypermutation, recombination, and selection, to reveal the contribution of generation-time effects caused by latency. Our method was able to recover latent lineages with high specificity and sensitivity, and low false discovery rates, even on relatively short branches on simulated phylogenies. Applying the tool to HIV-1 sequences from 26 patients, we show that the majority of phylogenetic lineages have been affected by generation-time effects in every patient type, whether untreated, elite controller, or under effective or failing treatment. Furthermore, we discovered extensive effects of latency in sequence data (gag, pol, and env) from reservoirs as well as in the replicating plasma population. To better understand our phylogenetic findings, we developed a dynamic model of virus-host interactions to investigate the proportion of lineages in the actively replicating population that have ever been latent. Assuming neutral evolution, our dynamic modeling showed that under most parameter conditions, it is possible for a few activated latent viruses to propagate so that in time, most HIV-1 lineages will have been latent at some time in their past. Conclusions: These results suggest that cycling in and out of latency plays a major role in the evolution of HIV-1. Thus, no aspect of HIV-1 evolution can be fully understood without considering latency - including treatment, drug resistance, immune evasion, transmission, and pathogenesis.

  • HIV-1 Vif inhibits G to A hypermutations catalyzed by virus-encapsidated APOBEC3G to maintain HIV-1 infectivity

  • Background: HIV-1 viral infectivity factor (Vif) is an essential accessory protein for HIV-1 replication. The predominant function of Vif is to counteract Apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing enzyme-catalytic polypeptide-like 3G (APOBEC3G, A3G), a potent host restriction factor that inhibits HIV-1 replication. Vif mediates the proteasomal degradation of A3G and inhibits A3G translation, thus diminishing the pool of A3G that is available to be packaged into budding virion. Although Vif is robust in degrading A3G, the protection provided against A3G is not absolute. Clinical and laboratory evidence have shown that A3G is not completely excluded from HIV-1 viral particles during HIV-1 replication. It remains unclear why the viral samples are still infectious when A3G has been packaged into the virions. Results: In this study, we provide evidence that Vif continues to protect HIV-1 from the deleterious effects of A3G, even after packaging of A3G has occurred. When equal amounts of A3G were packaged into budding virions, the virus expressing functional Vif was more infectious and incurred fewer G to A hypermutations in the second round of infection compared to Vif-deficient virus. A Vif mutant with a defect in viral packaging showed a reduced ability to protect the HIV-1 genome from G to A hypermutations. Conclusion: Our data suggest that even packaged A3G is still under the tyranny of Vif. Our work brings to light an additional caveat for any therapy that hopes to exploit the Vif-A3G axis. The ideal strategy would not only enhance A3G viral packaging, but also reduce HIV-1 Vif viral encapsidation.

  • The cooperative function of arginine residues in the Prototype Foamy Virus Gag C-terminus mediates viral and cellular RNA encapsidation

  • Background: One unique feature of the foamy virus (FV) capsid protein Gag is the absence of Cys-His motifs, which in orthoretroviruses are irreplaceable for multitude functions including viral RNA genome recognition and packaging. Instead, FV Gag contains glycine-arginine-rich (GR) sequences at its C-terminus. In case of prototype FV (PFV) these are historically grouped in three boxes, which have been shown to play essential functions in genome reverse transcription, virion infectivity and particle morphogenesis. Additional functions for RNA packaging and Pol encapsidation were suggested, but have not been conclusively addressed. Results: Here we show that released wild type PFV particles, like orthoretroviruses, contain various cellular RNAs in addition to viral genome. Unlike orthoretroviruses, the content of selected cellular RNAs in capsids of PFV vector particles was not altered by viral genome encapsidation. Deletion of individual GR boxes had only minor negative effects (2 to 4-fold) on viral and cellular RNA encapsidation over a wide range of cellular Gag to viral genome ratios examined. Only the concurrent deletion of all three PFV Gag GR boxes, or the substitution of multiple arginine residues residing in the C-terminal GR box region by alanine, abolished both viral and cellular RNA encapsidation (ggt;50 to ggt;3,000-fold reduced), independent of the viral production system used. Consequently, those mutants also lacked detectable amounts of encapsidated Pol and were non-infectious. In contrast, particle release was reduced to a much lower extent (3 to 20-fold). Conclusions: Taken together, our data provides the first identification of a full-length PFV Gag mutant devoid in genome packaging and the first report of cellular RNA encapsidation into PFV particles. Our results suggest that the cooperative action of C-terminal clustered positively charged residues, present in all FV Gag proteins, is the main viral protein determinant for viral and cellular RNA encapsidation. The viral genome independent efficiency of cellular RNA encapsidation suggests differential packaging mechanisms for both types of RNAs. Finally, this study indicates that analogous to orthoretroviruses, Gag– nucleic acid interactions are required for FV capsid assembly and efficient particle release.

  • Endogenous lentivirus in Malayan colugo ( Galeopterus variegatus ), a close relative of primates

  • Background: A significant fraction of mammalian genomes is composed of endogenous retroviral (ERV) sequences that are formed by germline infiltration of various retroviruses. In contrast to other retroviral genera, lentiviruses only rarely form ERV copies. We performed a computational search aimed at identification of novel endogenous lentiviruses in vertebrate genomes.FindingsUsing the in silico strategy, we have screened 104 publicly available vertebrate genomes for the presence of endogenous lentivirus sequences. In addition to the previously described cases, the search revealed the presence of endogenous lentivirus in the genome of Malayan colugo (Galeopterus variegatus). At least three complete copies of this virus, denoted ELVgv, were detected in the colugo genome, and approximately one hundred solo LTR sequences. The assembled consensus sequence of ELVgv had typical lentivirus genome organization including three predicted accessory genes. Phylogenetic analysis placed this virus as a distinct subgroup within the lentivirus genus. The time of insertion into the dermopteran lineage was estimated to be more than thirteen million years ago. Conclusions: We report the discovery of the first endogenous lentivirus in the mammalian order Dermoptera, which is a taxon close to the Primates. Lentiviruses have infiltrated the mammalian germline several times across millions of years. The colugo virus described here represents possibly the oldest documented endogenization event and its discovery can lead to new insights into lentivirus evolution. This is also the first report of an endogenous lentivirus in an Asian mammal, indicating a long-term presence of this retrovirus family in Asian continent.

  • Resistance to N-peptide fusion inhibitors correlates with thermodynamic stability of the gp41 six-helix bundle but not HIV entry kinetics

  • Background: The HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) undergoes conformational changes that mediate fusion between virus and host cell membranes. These changes involve transient exposure of two heptad-repeat domains (HR1 and HR2) in the gp41 subunit and their subsequent self-assembly into a six-helix bundle (6HB) that drives fusion. Env residues and features that influence conformational changes and the rate of virus entry, however, are poorly understood. Peptides corresponding to HR1 and HR2 (N and C peptides, respectively) interrupt formation of the 6HB by binding to the heptad repeats of a fusion-intermediate conformation of Env, making the peptides valuable probes for studying Env conformational changes. Results: Using a panel of Envs that are resistant to N-peptide fusion inhibitors, we investigated relationships between virus entry kinetics, 6HB stability, and resistance to peptide fusion inhibitors to elucidate how HR1 and HR2 mutations affect Env conformational changes and virus entry. We found that gp41 resistance mutations increased 6HB stability without increasing entry kinetics. Similarly, we show that increased 6HB thermodynamic stability does not correlate with increased entry kinetics. Thus, N-peptide fusion inhibitors do not necessarily select for Envs with faster entry kinetics, nor does faster entry kinetics predict decreased potency of peptide fusion inhibitors. Conclusions: These findings provide new insights into the relationship between 6HB stability and viral entry kinetics and mechanisms of resistance to inhibitors targeting fusion-intermediate conformations of Env. These studies further highlight how residues in HR1 and HR2 can influence virus entry by altering stability of the 6HB and possibly other conformations of Env that affect rate-limiting steps in HIV entry.

  • Neutralisation of HIV-1 cell-cell spread by human and llama antibodies

  • Background: Direct cell-cell spread of HIV-1 is a very efficient mode of viral dissemination, with increasing evidence suggesting that it may pose a considerable challenge to controlling viral replication in vivo. Much current vaccine research involves the study of broadly neutralising antibodies (bNabs) that arise during natural infection with the aims of eliciting such antibodies by vaccination or incorporating them into novel therapeutics. However, whether cell-cell spread of HIV-1 can be effectively targeted by bNabs remains unclear, and there is much interest in identifying antibodies capable of efficiently neutralising virus transmitted by cell-cell contact. Results: In this study we have tested a panel of bNAbs for inhibition of cell-cell spread, including some not previously evaluated for inhibition of this mode of HIV-1 transmission. We found that three CD4 binding site antibodies, one from an immunised llama (J3) and two isolated from HIV-1-positive patients (VRC01 and HJ16) neutralised cell-cell spread between T cells, while antibodies specific for glycan moieties (2G12, PG9, PG16) and the MPER (2F5) displayed variable efficacy. Notably, while J3 displayed a high level of potency during cell-cell spread we found that the small size of the llama heavy chain-only variable region (VHH) J3 is not required for efficient neutralisation since recombinant J3 containing a full-length human heavy chain Fc domain was significantly more potent. J3 and J3-Fc also neutralised cell-cell spread of HIV-1 from primary macrophages to CD4+ T cells. Conclusions: In conclusion, while bNabs display variable efficacy at preventing cell-cell spread of HIV-1, we find that some CD4 binding site antibodies can inhibit this mode of HIV-1 dissemination and identify the recently described llama antibody J3 as a particularly potent inhibitor. Effective neutralisation of cell-cell spread between physiologically relevant cell types by J3 and J3-Fc supports the development of VHH J3 nanobodies for therapeutic or prophylactic applications.

  • Aggregate complexes of HIV-1 induced by multimeric antibodies

  • Background: Antibody mediated viral aggregation may impede viral transfer across mucosal surfaces by hindering viral movement in mucus, preventing transcytosis, or reducing inter-cellular penetration of epithelia thereby limiting access to susceptible mucosal CD4 T cells and dendritic cells. These functions may work together to provide effective immune exclusion of virus from mucosal tissue; however little is known about the antibody characteristics required to induce HIV aggregation. Such knowledge may be critical to the design of successful immunization strategies to facilitate viral immune exclusion at the mucosal portals of entry. Results: The potential of neutralizing and non-neutralizing IgG and IgA monoclonals (mAbs) to induce HIV-1 aggregation was assessed by Dynamic light scattering (DLS). Although neutralizing and non-neutralizing IgG mAbs and polyclonal HIV-Ig efficiently aggregated soluble Env trimers, they were not capable of forming viral aggregates. In contrast, dimeric (but not monomeric) IgA mAbs induced stable viral aggregate populations that could be separated from uncomplexed virions. Epitope specificity influenced both the degree of aggregation and formation of higher order complexes by dIgA. IgA purified from serum of uninfected RV144 vaccine trial responders were able to efficiently opsonize viral particles in the absence of significant aggregation, reflective of monomeric IgA. Conclusions: These results collectively demonstrate that dIgA is capable of forming stable viral aggregates providing a plausible basis for testing the effectiveness of aggregation as a potential protection mechanism at the mucosal portals of viral entry.

  • HIV-1 Gag C-terminal amino acid substitutions emerging under selective pressure of protease inhibitors in patient populations infected with different HIV-1 subtypes

  • HIV-1 Gag amino acid substitutions associated with protease inhibitor (PI) treatment have mainly been reported in subtype B, while information on other subtypes is scarce. Using sequences from 11613 patients infected with different HIV-1 subtypes, we evaluated the prevalence of 93 Gag amino acid substitutions and their association with genotypic PI resistance. A significant association was found for 13 Gag substitutions, including A431V in both subtype B and CRF01_AE. K415R in subtype C and S451G in subtype B were newly identified. Most PI-associated Gag substitutions are located in the flexible C-terminal domain, revealing the key role this region plays in PI resistance.

  • Obituary: Axel Rethwilm (1959¿2014)

  • No abstract.
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