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1.  HIV Type 1 Infection Up-Regulates TLR2 and TLR4 Expression and Function in Vivo and in Vitro 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2012;28(10):1313-1328.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a critical role in innate immunity against pathogens. Their stimulation induces the activation of NF-κB, an important inducer of HIV-1 replication. In recent years, an increasing number of studies using several cells types from HIV-infected patients indicate that TLRs play a key role in regulating the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and viral pathogenesis. In the present study, the effect of HIV-1 stimulation of monocyte-derived macrophage (MDM) and peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) subpopulations from healthy donors on the expression and functions of TLR2 and TLR4 was examined. In addition, and to complete the in vitro study, the expression pattern of TLR2 and TLR4 in 49 HIV-1-infected patients, classified according to viral load and the use of HAART, was determined and compared with 25 healthy subjects. An increase of TLR expression and production of proinflammatory cytokines were observed in MDMs and PBMCs infected with HIV-1 in vitro and in response to TLR stimulation, compared to the mock. In addition, an association between TLR expression and up-regulation of CD80 in plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) was observed. The ex vivo analysis indicated increased expression of TLR2 and TLR4 in myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs), but only of TLR2 in monocytes obtained from HIV-1-infected patients, compared to healthy subjects. Remarkably, the expression was higher in cells from patients who do not use HAART. In monocytes, there was a positive correlation between both TLRs and viral load, but not CD4+ T cell numbers. Together, our in vitro and ex vivo results suggest that TLR expression and function can be up-regulated in response to HIV-1 infection and could affect the inflammatory response. We propose that modulation of TLRs represents a mechanism to promote HIV-1 replication or AIDS progression in HIV-1-infected patients.
PMCID: PMC3482876  PMID: 22280204
2.  Toll-Like Receptor 2 Impairs Host Defense in Gram-Negative Sepsis Caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei (Melioidosis) 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(7):e248.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are essential in host defense against pathogens by virtue of their capacity to detect microbes and initiate the immune response. TLR2 is seen as the most important receptor for gram-positive bacteria, while TLR4 is regarded as the gram-negative TLR. Melioidosis is a severe infection caused by the gram-negative bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, that is endemic in Southeast Asia. We aimed to characterize the expression and function of TLRs in septic melioidosis.
Methods and Findings
Patient studies: 34 patients with melioidosis demonstrated increased expression of CD14, TLR1, TLR2, and TLR4 on the cell surfaces of monocytes and granulocytes, and increased CD14, TLR1, TLR2, TLR4, LY96 (also known as MD-2), TLR5, and TLR10 mRNA levels in purified monocytes and granulocytes when compared with healthy controls. In vitro experiments: Whole-blood and alveolar macrophages obtained from TLR2 and TLR4 knockout (KO) mice were less responsive to B. pseudomallei in vitro, whereas in the reverse experiment, transfection of HEK293 cells with either TLR2 or TLR4 rendered these cells responsive to this bacterium. In addition, the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of B. pseudomallei signals through TLR2 and not through TLR4. Mouse studies: Surprisingly, TLR4 KO mice were indistinguishable from wild-type mice with respect to bacterial outgrowth and survival in experimentally induced melioidosis. In contrast, TLR2 KO mice displayed a markedly improved host defenses as reflected by a strong survival advantage together with decreased bacterial loads, reduced lung inflammation, and less distant-organ injury.
Patients with melioidosis displayed an up-regulation of multiple TLRs in peripheral blood monocytes and granulocytes. Although both TLR2 and TLR4 contribute to cellular responsiveness to B. pseudomallei in vitro, TLR2 detects the LPS of B. pseudomallei, and only TLR2 impacts on the immune response of the intact host in vivo. Inhibition of TLR2 may be a novel treatment strategy in melioidosis.
Willem Wiersinga and colleagues find up-regulation of multiple Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in peripheral blood cells of patients with melioidosis. However, only TLR2 had an effect on the immune response in a mouse model.
Editors' Summary
Melioidosis is a severe tropical infection caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. This soil-dwelling pathogen (disease-causing organism) enters the body through cuts, by swallowed contaminated water, or by inhaled contaminated dust. Here, it can cause a severe lung infection or spread into the blood stream and around the body, where it causes widespread inflammation (sepsis) and organ failure. Untreated septic melioidosis is usually fatal. Even with antibiotic therapy, half the people who develop it in Thailand (a hot spot for melioidosis) die. B. pseudomallei is a “gram-negative” bacterium. That is, it is surrounded by a membrane that stops it taking up a stain used to detect bacteria. This membrane contains a molecule called lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Proteins on immune system cells called Toll-like receptors (TLRs), of which there are many, recognize LPS and other surface molecules common to different pathogens and tell the cells to make cytokines. These cytokines stimulate the immune system to kill the pathogen but also cause inflammation, the underlying problem in septic melioidosis and other forms of sepsis. In other words, TLRs are two-edged swords—they provide an essential first-line defense against pathogens, but cause life-threatening inflammation if overstimulated.
Why Was This Study Done?
It isn't known which TLRs are involved in melioidosis. TLR4 normally detects LPS, but the surface of B. pseudomallei also carries molecules that interact with TLR2. Understanding how B. pseudomallei interacts with TLRs might suggest new, more effective ways to treat septic melioidosis. Better remedies for this disease are badly needed because, as well as the infections it causes in the community, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified B. pseudomallei as a potential bioterrorism agent. In this study, the researchers have characterized the expression and function of TLRs in septic melioidosis using human, in vitro (test tube), and animal approaches.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers isolated monocytes and granulocytes (immune system cells involved in first-line defenses against pathogens) from patients with melioidosis and from healthy people. The patients' cells made more TLR1, TLR2, TLR4, and CD14 (a protein that enhances the activation of immune system cells by LPS) than those of the healthy controls and more of the mRNAs encoding several other TLRs. Next, the researchers tested the ability of heat-killed B. pseudomallei to induce the release of TNFα (a cytokine produced in response to TLR signaling) from macrophages (immune system cells that swallow up pathogens) isolated from wild-type mice and from mice lacking TLR2 or TLR4. Macrophages isolated from wild-type mice made more TNFα than those from TLR2- or TLR4-deficient mice. In addition, a human kidney cell line engineered to express CD14/TLR2 or CD14/TLR4 but not the parent cell line released IL8 (another cytokine) when stimulated with heat-killed B. pseudomallei. Other experiments in these human cell lines showed that LPS purified from B. pseudomallei signals through TLR2 but not through TLR4. Finally, the researchers tested the ability of TLR2- and TLR4-deficient mice to survive after infection with live B. pseudomallei. Compared with TLR4-deficient or wild-type mice, the TLR2-deficient mice had a strong survival advantage, a lower bacterial load, reduced lung inflammation, and less organ damage.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that people with melioidosis have increased expression of several TLRs, any one of which might cause the sepsis associated with B. pseudomallei infection. The in vitro findings indicate that TLR2 and TLR4 both contribute to the responsiveness of immune cells to B. pseudomallei in test tubes, but that only TLR2 detects the LPS of this bacterium. This unexpected result—TLR4 normally responds to LPS—might indicate that there is something unique about the LPS of B. pseudomallei. Finally, the survival of TLR2-deficient mice after infection with B. pseudomallei suggests that TLR2-mediated dysregulation of the immune system in response to invasive B. pseudomallei might cause septic melioidosis. Although these results need confirming in people, they suggest that inhibition of TLR2 in combination with antibiotic therapy might improve outcomes for people with melioidosis.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on melioidosis (in English and Spanish)
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information for the public and health professionals on melioidosis
Wikipedia has pages on melioidosis and on Toll-like receptors (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on sepsis (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC1950213  PMID: 17676990
3.  Differential Expression of Toll-like Receptors in Dendritic Cells of Patients with Dengue during Early and Late Acute Phases of the Disease 
Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is observed in individuals that have pre-existing heterotypic dengue antibodies and is associated with increased viral load and high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines early in infection. Interestingly, a recent study showed that dengue virus infection in the presence of antibodies resulted in poor stimulation of Toll-like receptors (TLRs), thereby facilitating virus particle production, and also suggesting that TLRs may contribute to disease pathogenesis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We evaluated the expression levels of TLR2, 3, 4 and 9 and the co-stimulatory molecules CD80 and CD86 by flow cytometry. This was evaluated in monocytes, in myeloid and plasmacytoid dendritic cells (mDCs and pDCs) from 30 dengue patients with different clinical outcomes and in 20 healthy controls. Increased expression of TLR3 and TLR9 in DCs of patients with dengue fever (DF) early in infection was detected. In DCs from patients with severe manifestations, poor stimulation of TLR3 and TLR9 was observed. In addition, we found a lower expression of TLR2 in patients with DF compared to DHF. Expression levels of TLR4 were not affected. Furthermore, the expression of CD80 and CD86 was altered in mDCs and CD86 in pDCs of severe dengue cases. We show that interferon alpha production decreased in the presence of dengue virus after stimulation of PBMCs with the TLR9 agonist (CpG A). This suggests that the virus can affect the interferon response through this signaling pathway.
These results show that during dengue disease progression, the expression profile of TLRs changes depending on the severity of the disease. Changes in TLRs expression could play a central role in DC activation, thereby influencing the innate immune response.
Author Summary
Dengue virus (DENV) infections cause a broad spectrum of clinical manifestations, ranging from self-limited fever to severe disease, such as dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) that can be fatal. The pathogenesis of severe dengue is associated with an inadequate immune response characterized by the over-production of cytokines and other inflammatory components. However, little is known about the role of the innate immune response in the progression to hemorrhagic manifestations. TLRs are among the most important components of innate immunity and are responsible for initiating a response against a variety of pathogens, including viruses. Recent studies suggest that TLRs may contribute to disease pathogenesis. Here we aimed to explore the role of these receptors in dengue disease progression. To this end, we examined the expression of several TLRs and of co-stimulatory molecules in monocytes and DCs from dengue patients. A link between TLRs expression and the severity of dengue was observed: patients with dengue fever express higher levels of TLR3 and TLR9 than patients with DHF. This could be crucial for the host defense against dengue virus or disease progression. In addition, expression of CD80 and CD86 was altered in DCs of severe dengue cases. We show that interferon type I production is also altered in vitro through TLR9. This suggests that dengue virus affects the interferon response through this signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3585035  PMID: 23469297
4.  Blocking TLR7- and TLR9-mediated IFN-α Production by Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells Does Not Diminish Immune Activation in Early SIV Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(7):e1003530.
Persistent production of type I interferon (IFN) by activated plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) is a leading model to explain chronic immune activation in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection but direct evidence for this is lacking. We used a dual antagonist of Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7 and TLR9 to selectively inhibit responses of pDC but not other mononuclear phagocytes to viral RNA prior to and for 8 weeks following pathogenic simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of rhesus macaques. We show that pDC are major but not exclusive producers of IFN-α that rapidly become unresponsive to virus stimulation following SIV infection, whereas myeloid DC gain the capacity to produce IFN-α, albeit at low levels. pDC mediate a marked but transient IFN-α response in lymph nodes during the acute phase that is blocked by administration of TLR7 and TLR9 antagonist without impacting pDC recruitment. TLR7 and TLR9 blockade did not impact virus load or the acute IFN-α response in plasma and had minimal effect on expression of IFN-stimulated genes in both blood and lymph node. TLR7 and TLR9 blockade did not prevent activation of memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in blood or lymph node but led to significant increases in proliferation of both subsets in blood following SIV infection. Our findings reveal that virus-mediated activation of pDC through TLR7 and TLR9 contributes to substantial but transient IFN-α production following pathogenic SIV infection. However, the data indicate that pDC activation and IFN-α production are unlikely to be major factors in driving immune activation in early infection. Based on these findings therapeutic strategies aimed at blocking pDC function and IFN-α production may not reduce HIV-associated immunopathology.
Author Summary
A persistent type I interferon (IFN) response is thought to be important in driving immune activation and progression to AIDS in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals. Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) produce copious amounts of type I IFN upon virus exposure through engagement of Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7 and TLR9 and thus may be central players in the etiology of immune activation. We used a dual antagonist of TLR7 and TLR9 to selectively block the response of pDC but not other mononuclear phagocytes prior to and for 8 weeks following simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of rhesus macaques. We show that pDC are major, but not exclusive, producers of IFN-α that mediate a marked but transient IFN-α response in lymph nodes in the acute phase of infection. TLR7 and TLR9 antagonist prevented this IFN-α production without suppressing pDC recruitment. Nevertheless, TLR7 and TLR9 blockade did not impact expression of IFN-stimulated genes or decrease the activation of T cells, the hallmarks of immune activation. The findings indicate that TLR7 and TLR9-driven activation of pDC is unlikely to be a major contributor to immune activation in the early stages of immunodeficiency virus infections and suggest that therapeutic strategies aimed at targeting pDC and IFN-α production may not reduce HIV-associated immunopathology.
PMCID: PMC3723633  PMID: 23935491
5.  Differential regulation of TLR pathways in acute and chronic HIV-1 infection 
AIDS (London, England)  2012;26(5):533-541.
Objective and design
The objective of this study was to determine changes in TLR responses of monocytes, myeloid dendritic cells and plasmacytoid dendritic cells during primary and chronic HIV-1 infection. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) serve as important innate receptors to sense pathogens, and have been implicated in mediating immune activation in HIV-1 infection. Studies assessing the consequences of HIV-1 infection on the ability of innate immune cells to respond to TLR stimulation have come to varying conclusions.
Using intracellular flow cytometry, cytokine production by cryopreserved PBMCs from healthy controls and HIV-1 infected individuals were examined after TLR stimulation.
We observed that the effect of HIV-1 infection on TLR responses not only depended on the stage of HIV-1 infection, but was also dependent on the individual receptor and cell type examined. Monocyte and mDC responses to TLR8 stimulation were associated with HIV-1 viral load and CD4+ T cell count, while pDC responses to TLR7 stimulation were not. Responses to TLR2 stimulation were not affected by HIV-1 infection while responses to TLR9 stimulation were universally decreased in all HIV-1 infected individuals examined regardless of treatment or clinical parameters.
Responsiveness to TLR7/8 stimulation, which have been shown to recognize HIV-1 ssRNA, did not decrease in chronic infection, and may represent a contributing factor to ongoing T cell immune activation in the setting of chronic viremic HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3738004  PMID: 22210629
HIV-1; Toll-like receptor; Innate immunity; Pathogenesis; Dendritic Cells; Monocytes
6.  Impaired Hepatitis C Virus-Specific T Cell Responses and Recurrent Hepatitis C Virus in HIV Coinfection 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e492.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV)-specific T cell responses are critical for spontaneous resolution of HCV viremia. Here we examined the effect of a lymphotropic virus, HIV-1, on the ability of coinfected patients to maintain spontaneous control of HCV infection.
Methods and Findings
We measured T cell responsiveness by lymphoproliferation and interferon-γ ELISPOT in a large cohort of HCV-infected individuals with and without HIV infection. Among 47 HCV/HIV-1-coinfected individuals, spontaneous control of HCV was associated with more frequent HCV-specific lymphoproliferative (LP) responses (35%) compared to coinfected persons who exhibited chronic HCV viremia (7%, p = 0.016), but less frequent compared to HCV controllers who were not HIV infected (86%, p = 0.003). Preservation of HCV-specific LP responses in coinfected individuals was associated with a higher nadir CD4 count (r2 = 0.45, p < 0.001) and the presence and magnitude of the HCV-specific CD8+ T cell interferon-γ response (p = 0.0014). During long-term follow-up, recurrence of HCV viremia occurred in six of 25 coinfected individuals with prior control of HCV, but in 0 of 16 HIV-1-negative HCV controllers (p = 0.03, log rank test). In these six individuals with recurrent HCV viremia, the magnitude of HCV viremia following recurrence inversely correlated with the CD4 count at time of breakthrough (r = −0.94, p = 0.017).
These results indicate that HIV infection impairs the immune response to HCV—including in persons who have cleared HCV infection—and that HIV-1-infected individuals with spontaneous control of HCV remain at significant risk for a second episode of HCV viremia. These findings highlight the need for repeat viral RNA testing of apparent controllers of HCV infection in the setting of HIV-1 coinfection and provide a possible explanation for the higher rate of HCV persistence observed in this population.
HIV infection impairs the immune response to HCV. Even individuals who have cleared HCV infection remain at significant risk for a second episode of HCV viremia.
Editors' Summary
Because of shared transmission routes (contaminated needles, contaminated blood products, and, to a lesser extent, unprotected sex), a large proportion of HIV-infected individuals (estimates range between 25% and 33%) are also infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). In most but not all individuals infected with HCV, the virus infection is chronic and causes liver disease that can eventually lead to liver failure. Disease progress is slow; it often takes decades until infected individuals develop serious liver disease. In people infected with both HCV and HIV, however, liver disease caused by HCV often appears sooner and progresses faster. As highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and prophylaxis of opportunistic infections increase the life span of persons living with HIV, HCV-related liver disease has become a major cause of hospital admissions and deaths among HIV-infected persons.
Why Was This Study Done?
A sizable minority of people who are infected with HCV manage to control the virus and never get liver disease, and scientists have found that these people somehow mounted a strong immune response against the hepatitis C virus. CD4+ T cells, the very immune cells that are infected and destroyed by HIV, play an important role in this immune response. The goal of the present study was to better understand how infection with HIV compromises the specific immune response to HCV and thereby the control of HCV disease progression.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited four groups of patients, 94 in total, all of whom were infected with HCV. Two groups comprised patients who were infected with HIV as well as HCV, with either high or undetectable levels of HCV (30 patients in each group). The two other groups included patients not infected with HIV, either with high or undetectable levels of HCV (17 patients in each group). The researchers focused on the individuals who, despite coinfection with HIV, were able to control their HCV infection. They found that those individuals managed to maintain relatively high levels of CD4+ T cells that specifically recognize HCV. However, a quarter of these patients (six out of 25) failed to keep HCV levels down for the entire observation period of up to 2.5 years; their blood levels of HCV rose substantially, most likely due to recurrence of the previously suppressed virus (the researchers could not be certain that none of the patients had become infected again after a new exposure to HCV-contaminated blood, but there was no evidence that they had engaged in risky behavior). The rise of HCV levels in the blood of the relapsed patients coincided with a drop in overall CD4+ T cell numbers. Following relapse in these individuals, HCV did not return to undetectable levels during the study. During the same period none of the 16 HIV-uninfected people with controlled HCV infection experienced a recurrence of detectable HCV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Despite the relatively small numbers of patients, these results suggest that recurrence of HCV after initial control of the virus is more likely in people who are coinfected with HIV, and that HCV control is lost when CD4+ T cell counts fall. This is one more reason to test all HIV-positive patients for HCV coinfection. Coinfected patients, even those who seem to be controlling HCV and would not automatically receive HCV treatment, should be regularly tested for a rise of HCV levels. In addition, maintaining CD4+ T cells at a high level might be particularly important for those patients, which means that doctors might consider starting HAART therapy earlier than is generally recommended for HIV-infected individuals. Additional studies are needed to support these recommendations, however, especially as this study did not follow the patients long enough to determine the consequences of the observed loss of control of HCV.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
AIDS Treatment Data Network factsheet on HIV/HCV coinfection
US CDC factsheet on HIV/HCV coinfection
American Liver Foundation, information on HIV and HCV
MedlinePlus pages on HCV
PMCID: PMC1705826  PMID: 17194190
7.  Multiple Sclerosis: Modulation of Toll-Like Receptor (TLR) Expression by Interferon-β Includes Upregulation of TLR7 in Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70626.
Interferon-β is an established treatment for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) but its mechanisms of action are not well understood. Viral infections are a known trigger of MS relapses. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are key components of the innate immune system, which sense conserved structures of viruses and other pathogens. Effects of interferon-β on mRNA levels of all known human TLRs (TLR1-10) and the TLR adaptor molecule MyD88 were analyzed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of healthy donors by quantitative real-time PCR and by transcriptome analysis in PBMCs of 25 interferon-β-treated patients with relapsing-remitting MS. Regulation of TLR protein expression by interferon-β was investigated by flow cytometry of leukocyte subsets of healthy subjects and of untreated, interferon-β-, or glatiramer acetate-treated patients with MS. Interferon-β specifically upregulated mRNA expression of TLR3, TLR7, and MyD88 and downregulated TLR9 mRNA in PBMCs of healthy donors as well as in PBMCs of patients with MS. Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) were identified as the major cell type responding to interferon-β with increased expression of TLR7 and MyD88 protein. In line with this, expression of TLR7 protein was increased in pDCs of interferon-β-treated, but not untreated or glatiramer acetate-treated patients with MS. Interferon-β-induced upregulation of TLR7 in pDCs is of functional relevance since pre-treatment of PBMCs with interferon-β resulted in a strongly increased production of interferon-α upon stimulation with the TLR7 agonist loxoribine. Flow cytometry confirmed pDCs as the cellular source of interferon-α production induced by activation of TLR7. Thus, upregulation of TLR7 in pDCs and a consequently increased activation of pDCs by TLR7 ligands represents a novel immunoregulatory mechanism of interferon-β. We hypothesize that this mechanism could contribute to a reduction of virus-triggered relapses in patients with MS.
PMCID: PMC3741212  PMID: 23950974
8.  Plasma Factors during Chronic HIV-1 Infection Impair IL-12 Secretion by Myeloid Dendritic Cells via a Virus-Independent Pathway 
Myeloid dendritic cell (mDC) dysfunction during HIV infection may hinder the formation of both innate and adaptive immune responses and contribute to pathogenesis. Our objective was to determine whether circulating factors during chronic HIV infection impair mDC function with respect to secretion of IL-12, a pro-Th1 cytokine, and T cell stimulatory capacity. Particular focus was placed on the effect of combination anti-retroviral therapy (cART) and the role of HIV itself on mDC function.
Monocyte-derived DC (moDC) from uninfected donors were exposed to plasma from HIV-infected individuals prior to Toll-like receptor (TLR) stimulation. Cytokine secretion was measured via cytokine bead arrays, and T cell proliferation and IFNγ secretion was evaluated following co-culture with naive CD4+ T cells. Expression of genes central to TLR-mediated signal transduction was analyzed via qRT-PCR arrays and western blot.
Exposure of moDC to plasma from untreated HIV-infected donors suppressed secretion of IL-12, and impaired Th1-skewing of CD4+ T cells. The suppressive effect was less by plasma donors receiving cART. Removal of virus from plasma did not relieve suppression, nor was IL-12 secretion decreased upon addition of HIV to control plasma. On a transcriptional level, decreased expression of IKKβ, a key regulator in the TLR/NF-kappaB signaling pathway, corresponded to suppressed cytokine secretion.
Plasma factors during chronic HIV infection impair mDC function in a manner that likely impacts the formation of immune responses to HIV, opportunistic pathogens, and vaccines. Despite partial alleviation by cART, this suppression was not directly mediated by HIV.
PMCID: PMC3508089  PMID: 22902724
HIV-1; Myeloid Dendritic Cell; Innate Immunity; Toll-like receptor; IL-12; I-kappa B kinase
9.  HIV-1 Reactivation Induced by the Periodontal Pathogens Fusobacterium nucleatum and Porphyromonas gingivalis Involves Toll-Like Receptor 4 and 9 Activation in Monocytes/Macrophages▿  
Although oral coinfections (e.g., periodontal disease) are highly prevalent in human immunodeficiency virus type 1-positive (HIV-1+) patients and appear to positively correlate with viral load levels, the potential for oral bacteria to induce HIV-1 reactivation in latently infected cells has received little attention. We showed that HIV-1 long terminal repeat (LTR) promoter activation can be induced by periodontopathogens in monocytes/macrophages; nevertheless, the mechanisms involved in this response remain undetermined. Since Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2), TLR4, and TLR9 activation have been involved in HIV-1 recrudescence, we sought to determine the role of these TLRs in HIV-1 reactivation induced by the periodontal pathogens Fusobacterium nucleatum and Porphyromonas gingivalis using BF24 monocytes/macrophages stably transfected with the HIV-1 promoter driving chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) expression and THP89GFP cells, a model of HIV-1 latency. We demonstrated that TLR9 activation by F. nucleatum and TLR2 activation by both bacteria appear to be involved in HIV-1 reactivation; however, TLR4 activation had no effect. Moreover, the autocrine activity of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) but not interleukin-1β (IL-1β) produced in response to bacteria could impact viral reactivation. The transcription factors NF-κB and Sp1 appear to be positively regulating HIV-1 reactivation induced by these oral pathogens. These results suggest that oral Gram-negative bacteria (F. nucleatum and P. gingivalis) associated with oral and systemic chronic inflammatory disorders enhance HIV-1 reactivation in monocytes/macrophages through TLR2 and TLR9 activation in a mechanism that appears to be transcriptionally regulated. Increased bacterial growth and emergence of these bacteria or their products accompanying chronic oral inflammatory diseases could be risk modifiers for viral replication, systemic immune activation, and AIDS progression in HIV-1+ patients.
PMCID: PMC2944464  PMID: 20610663
10.  Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Number and Responses to Toll-Like Receptor 7 and 9 Agonists Vary in HIV Type 1-Infected Individuals in Relation to Clinical State 
In HIV-1 infection, plasmacytoid dendritic cell (PDC) numbers and function are decreased. No detailed comparisons of PDC responses to various stimuli in HIV-1-infected patients are available. Using for the first time purified PDCs, we compared PDC responses [interferon (IFN)-α production/cell] to various stimuli in a large number (n=48) of HIV-1-infected patients and healthy volunteers (n=19). Toll-like receptor (TLR)7- and TLR9-induced expression of PDC surface activation and maturation markers was also compared in the two populations. We have confirmed that PDC number coincides with CD4+ T cell counts and clinical state. Notably, we have shown that a direct association of PDC function in terms of IFN-α production/cell exists with PDC numbers and CD4+ cell counts when PDCs are exposed to a TLR9 ligand and HIV-infected cells, but not with a TLR7 ligand. Moreover, in the HIV-infected subjects but not the healthy controls, the magnitude of IFN-α release per PDC in response to the TLR7 ligand is significantly (p<0.01) lower than that to the TLR9 ligand. However, in both study populations, the TLR7 stimulation in comparison to TLR9 stimulation induced higher expression of PDC surface activation and maturation markers and significantly (p<0.05) decreased the expression of BDCA-2, a negative regulator of interferon. Furthermore, the cross-ligation of BDCA-2 significantly (p<0.05) inhibited TLR9- but not TLR7-induced IFN-α production by PDCs from both clinical groups. These findings suggest that differences exist in TLR7- and TLR9-induced IFN-α production by PDCs in HIV-infected individuals that are not directly related to BDCA-2 down-modulation.
PMCID: PMC3581027  PMID: 23131038
11.  Immune Activation and Regulation in Simian Immunodeficiency Virus-Plasmodium fragile-Coinfected Rhesus Macaques 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(17):9523-9537.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is characterized by immune activation, while chronic malaria is associated with elevated interleukin-10 (IL-10) levels. How these apparently antagonizing forces interact in the coinfected host is poorly understood. Using a rhesus macaque model of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-Plasmodium fragile coinfection, we evaluated how innate immune effector cells affect the balance between immune activation and regulation. In vitro Toll-like receptor (TLR) responses of peripheral blood myeloid dendritic cells (mDC) and monocytes were temporarily associated with acute parasitemic episodes and elevated plasma IL-10 levels. Prolonged infection resulted in a decline of mDC function. Monocytes maintained TLR responsiveness but, in addition to IL-12 and tumor necrosis factor alpha, also produced IL-10. Consistent with the role of spleen in the clearance of parasite-infected red blood cells, coinfected animals also had increased splenic IL-10 mRNA levels. The main cellular source of IL-10 in the spleens of coinfected animals, however, was not splenic macrophages but T cells, suggesting an impairment of adaptive immunity. In contrast to those in spleen, IL-10-positive cells in axillary lymph nodes of coinfected animals were predominantly mDC, reminiscent of the immunosuppressive phenotype of peripheral blood mDC. Concurrent with IL-10 induction, however, SIV infection promoted elevated systemic IL-12 levels. The continuously increasing ratio of plasma IL-12 to IL-10 suggested that the overall host response in SIV-P. fragile-coinfected animals was shifted toward immune activation versus immune regulation. Therefore, SIV-P. fragile coinfection might be characterized by earlier manifestation of immune dysfunction and exhaustion than that of single-pathogen infections. This could translate into increased morbidity in HIV-malaria-coinfected individuals.
PMCID: PMC3754117  PMID: 23785209
12.  Human Airway Epithelial Cells Sense Pseudomonas aeruginosa Infection via Recognition of Flagellin by Toll-Like Receptor 5  
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(11):7151-7160.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic respiratory pathogen that infects the majority of patients with cystic fibrosis, initiates host inflammatory responses through interaction with airway epithelial cells. The Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a family of pathogen pattern recognition receptors that play key roles in host innate immunity. In this study we aimed to determine whether TLRs mediate the interaction between P. aeruginosa and airway epithelial cells. Individual murine TLRs (TLR1 to TLR9) and dual combinations of these TLRs that activate an NF-κB-driven luciferase reporter in response to PAO1 were screened in HEK 293 cells. TLR5, TLR2, a combination of TLR1 and TLR2, or a combination of TLR2 and TLR6 responded to PAO1. Another P. aeruginosa strain, strain PAK, activated TLR5 similarly, while the isogenic flagellin-deficient strain PAK/fliC and the flagellum-free bacterium Haemophilus influenzae failed to activate TLR5. Reverse transcription-PCR was used to probe the presence of multiple TLRs (including TLR5) in primary human airway epithelial cells (HAECs). Immunostaining with TLR5 antibodies showed that TLR5 was expressed in HAECs and on the apical surface of the human trachea epithelium. In HAECs, PAO1, PAK, and Burkholderia cepacia, but not flagellin-deficient strain PAK/fliC or a B. cepacia fliC mutant, activated the NF-κB reporter. Dominant negative TLR5 specifically blocked the response to P. aeruginosa but not to the response to lipoteichoic acid, a specific ligand of TLR2. We also determined that MyD88, IRAK, TRAF6, and Toll-interacting protein (Tollip), but not TIRAP, were involved in the TLR-mediated response to P. aeruginosa in HAECs. These findings demonstrate that the airway epithelial receptor TLR5 senses P. aeruginosa through its flagellin protein, which may have an important role in the initiation of the host inflammatory reaction to clear the invading pathogen.
PMCID: PMC1273914  PMID: 16239509
13.  Attenuation of Toll-Like Receptor Expression and Function in Latent Tuberculosis by Coexistent Filarial Infection with Restoration Following Antifilarial Chemotherapy 
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and filarial coinfection is highly prevalent, and the presence of filarial infections may regulate the Toll-like receptor (TLR)-dependent immune response needed to control Mtb infection. By analyzing the baseline and mycobacterial antigen–stimulated expression of TLR1, 2, 4, and 9 (in individuals with latent tuberculosis [TB] with or without filarial infection), we were able to demonstrate that filarial infection, coincident with Mtb, significantly diminishes both baseline and Mtb antigen-specific TLR2 and TLR9 expression. In addition, pro-inflammatory cytokine responses to TLR2 and 9 ligands are significantly diminished in filaria/TB-coinfected individuals. Definitive treatment of lymphatic filariasis significantly restores the pro-inflammatory cytokine responses in individuals with latent TB. Coincident filarial infection exerted a profound inhibitory effect on protective mycobacteria-specific TLR-mediated immune responses in latent tuberculosis and suggests a novel mechanism by which concomitant filarial infections predispose to the development of active tuberculosis in humans.
Author Summary
Lymphatic filariasis afflicts over 120 million people worldwide, while Mycobacterium tuberculosis infects over 2 billion people worldwide. Almost 90% of infected people harbor latent tuberculosis infection with no clinical manifestations. Toll-like receptors (TLRs), pattern-recognition receptors that are present on host immune cells, constitute an important facet of host immune response initiation against a variety of pathogens. Because lymphatic filariasis and tuberculosis are co-endemic in many parts of the world and because TLR modulation is an important feature of both infections, we examined the effect of coexisting filarial infection on TLR-specific immune responses in latent tuberculosis by comparing cellular immune responses to Toll ligands in individuals with latent tuberculosis with or without concomitant lymphatic filariasis. We first examined modulation of TLRs at the gene expression level and determined that downregulation of TLR2 and 9 is associated with coexisting filarial infection. We then determined that Toll ligand-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine production—which is crucial in host defense against TB—is diminished in the presence of filarial coinfection. Treatment of filarial infection restores cytokine production in individuals with latent TB. Thus, we conclude that coexisting filarial infections might significantly compromise essential immune responses in tuberculosis and that treatment of filarial infections would potentially confer tremendous benefit in combating tuberculosis.
PMCID: PMC2710006  PMID: 19636364
14.  Asparagine Endopeptidase Controls Anti-Influenza Virus Immune Responses through TLR7 Activation 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(8):e1002841.
Intracellular Toll-like receptors (TLRs) expressed by dendritic cells recognize nucleic acids derived from pathogens and play an important role in the immune responses against the influenza virus (IAV), a single-stranded RNA sensed by different receptors including TLR7. However, the importance of TLR7 processing in the development of anti-viral immune responses is not known. Here we report that asparagine endopeptidase (AEP) deficient mice are unable to generate a strong anti-IAV response, as demonstrated by reduced inflammation, cross presentation of cell-associated antigens and priming of CD8+ T cells following TLR7-dependent pulmonary infection induced by IAV. Moreover, AEP deficient lung epithelial- or myeloid-cells exhibit impaired TLR7 signaling due to defective processing of this receptor. Indeed, TLR7 requires a proteolytic cleavage by AEP to generate a C-terminal fragment competent for signaling. Thus, AEP activity is critical for TLR7 processing, opening new possibilities for the treatment of influenza and TLR7-dependent inflammatory diseases.
Author Summary
Influenza A virus, a negative stranded RNA, can cause severe illness in humans and animals and stimulates many receptors including Toll like receptors 7 (TLR7). TLR signaling induces maturation of dendritic cells and the production of a variety of inflammatory cytokines that are crucial for both innate and adaptive immunity. TLR7 is an intracellular receptor, which resides in endosomes and senses viruses to trigger host defence. Previous data have shown that TLR9 requires proteolysis to be functional but it is unclear whether other intracellular TLRs (TLR3 and TLR7) are also subject to degradation. Here, we used a protease deficient mouse model to show the in vivo importance of TLR7 processing in influenza infection. Inflammation monitored by cytokine release and adaptive immunity measured by cross priming of CD8+ T cells was significantly reduced in infected protease-deficient animals in comparison to control animals. We showed that TLR7 requires a proteolytic cleavage by a cysteine endopeptidase in order to be functional. Our findings indicate that TLR7 processing mediated by a protease, asparagynil endopeptidase, is critical for inducing robust anti-influenza immune responses. Given our results, targeting TLR7 response in the lungs through proteases may offer new therapeutic potential in pulmonary infection.
PMCID: PMC3420946  PMID: 22916010
15.  Antagonist-mediated down-regulation of toll-like receptors increases the prevalence of human papillomavirus infection in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Prevalence of an abnormal Papanicolaou smear was significantly increased in lupus patients in cross-sectional studies, associated with a higher prevalence of high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The nucleic acid-specific Toll-like receptors (TLRs) locate at the endolysosomal compartments and trigger the induction of cytokines for the innate immune response. This study evaluated whether abnormal host innate immune response in lupus patients may enhance HPV persistence.
Protein levels of TLRs 3, 7, 8 and 9 in cervical epithelial cells of lupus patients and controls with or without HPV infection were assessed using flow cytometry. Characteristics associated with the differential expression of TLRs in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were elucidated. The effect and interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) (ISG15 and Mx-1) gene expressions were then measured in oncogenic HeLa (HPV18), CaSki (HPV) and C33A (HPV negative) cell lines using flow cytometry and quantitative real-time PCR. Ex vivo productions of cytokines and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) upon TLR ligands stimulations were subsequently measured using cytometric bead array and ELISA.
For subjects with HPV infection, levels of TLR3 and TLR7 were significantly lower in lupus patients compared with controls. Significantly decreased TLRs 7, 8 and 9 levels were observed in HPV-negative SLE compared to healthy controls. For SLE with and without HPV infection, TLR7 and 9 levels were significantly lower in infected SLE than those in HPV-negative patients. Independent explanatory variables associated with down-regulation of TLR7 level included HPV infection and a higher cumulative dose of prednisolone; while a higher cumulative dose of hydroxychloroquine and HPV infection were associated with down-regulation of TLR9 level. In cervical cell lines, TLRs 3, 7, 8, 9 protein levels and antiviral ISG15 and Mx-1 gene expressions were inhibited in two oncogenic HPV types. Functional data showed that the induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines by TLR ligands (R837, ssRNA and ODN2395) was greatly impaired in CaSki and HeLa than C33A cells.
In conclusion, prednisolone and TLR antagonist (hydroxychloroquine) may down-regulate protein levels of TLR7 and TLR9 in lupus patients, thereby decreasing the innate immune response against HPV infection. Upon infection, HPV further down-regulate TLR7 and 9 levels for viral persistence. Furthermore, reduction of nucleic acid-sensing TLRs 7, 8 and 9 in carcinogenic HPVs ensures that the expression of inducible pro-inflammatory cytokines is minimized to prevent the expression of antiviral ISGs (ISG15 and Mx-1) on a biologically relevant antiviral response.
PMCID: PMC3446454  PMID: 22513098
16.  HIV and HCV Activate the Inflammasome in Monocytes and Macrophages via Endosomal Toll-Like Receptors without Induction of Type 1 Interferon 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(5):e1004082.
Innate immune sensing of viral infection results in type I interferon (IFN) production and inflammasome activation. Type I IFNs, primarily IFN-α and IFN-β, are produced by all cell types upon virus infection and promote an antiviral state in surrounding cells by inducing the expression of IFN-stimulated genes. Type I IFN production is mediated by Toll-like receptor (TLR) 3 in HCV infected hepatocytes. Type I IFNs are also produced by plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) after sensing of HIV and HCV through TLR7 in the absence of productive pDC infection. Inflammasomes are multi-protein cytosolic complexes that integrate several pathogen-triggered signaling cascades ultimately leading to caspase-1 activation and generation pro-inflammatory cytokines including interleukin (IL)-18 and IL-1β. Here, we demonstrate that HIV and HCV activate the inflammasome, but not Type I IFN production, in monocytes and macrophages in an infection-independent process that requires clathrin-mediated endocytosis and recognition of the virus by distinct endosomal TLRs. Knockdown of each endosomal TLR in primary monocytes by RNA interference reveals that inflammasome activation in these cells results from HIV sensing by TLR8 and HCV recognition by TLR7. Despite its critical role in type I IFN production by pDCs stimulated with HIV, TLR7 is not required for inflammasome activation by HIV. Similarly, HCV activation of the inflammasome in monocytes does not require TLR3 or its downstream signaling adaptor TICAM-1, while this pathway leads to type I IFN in infected hepatocytes. Monocytes and macrophages do not produce type I IFN upon TLR8 or TLR7 sensing of HIV or HCV, respectively. These findings reveal a novel infection-independent mechanism for chronic viral induction of key anti-viral programs and demonstrate distinct TLR utilization by different cell types for activation of the type I IFN vs. inflammasome pathways of inflammation.
Author Summary
Pathogens are detected by the immune system in multiple ways that initiate responses to control infection. Two systems of first line defense against viruses are 1) the production of Type I interferons and 2) production of the cytokines IL-1β and IL-18 by the inflammasome. Type I interferons promote an antiviral state in the infected host. Inflammasome cytokines induce inflammation, modulate adaptive immune responses, and have direct antiviral effects. While both are produced in response to the chronic human viral infections HIV and HCV, we demonstrate here that inflammasome activation does not require cell infection and that the mechanisms for viral sensing as well as cell types in which sensing occurs are distinct between the two viruses and between the type I interferon vs. inflammasome systems. The relative amount of sensing via these different mechanisms may affect the balance between antiviral and inflammatory responses to chronic infection.
PMCID: PMC4006909  PMID: 24788318
17.  A Role for TLR Signaling During B Cell Activation in Antiretroviral-Treated HIV Individuals 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2013;29(10):1353-1360.
The mechanisms underlying B cell activation that persists during antiretroviral therapy (ART) are unknown. Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling is a critical mediator of innate cell activation and though B cells express TLRs, few studies have investigated a role for TLR signaling in B cell activation during HIV infection. We addressed this question by assessing the activated phenotype and TLR expression/responsiveness of B cells from ART-treated HIV-infected subjects (HIVART+). We evaluated activation markers implicated in B cell-mediated T cell trans infection during HIV pathogenesis. We found no significant difference in TLR expression between B cells of HIVART+ and HIV− subjects. However, B cells of HIVART+ subjects exhibited heightened endogenous expression levels of IL-6 (p=0.0051), T cell cognate ligands CD40 (p=0.0475), CD54 (p=0.0229), and phosphorylated p38 (p<0.0001), a marker of TLR signaling. In vitro, B cells of HIVART+ individuals were less responsive to TLR stimulation compared to B cells of HIV− subjects. The activated phenotype of in vitro TLR-stimulated B cells of HIV− subjects was similar to ex vivo B cells from HIVART+ individuals. TLR2 stimulation was a potent mediator of B cell activation, whereas B cells were least responsive to TLR4 stimulation. Compared to HIV− subjects, the serum level of lipoteichoic acid (TLR2 ligand) in HIVART+ subjects was significantly higher (p=0.0207), correlating positively with viral load (p=0.0127, r=0.6453). Our data suggest that during HIV infection TLR-activated B cells may exert a pathogenic role and B cells from HIVART+ subjects respond to in vitro TLR stimulation, yet exhibit a TLR tolerant phenotype suggesting prior in vivo TLR stimulation.
PMCID: PMC3785799  PMID: 23763346
18.  Systemic Immune Activation in HIV Infection Is Associated with Decreased MDC Responsiveness to TLR Ligand and Inability to Activate Naive CD4 T-Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e23884.
HIV infection is characterized by ineffective anti-viral T-cell responses and impaired dendritic cell (DC) functions, including response to Toll-Like Receptor (TLR) ligands. Because TLR responsiveness may affect a host's response to virus, we examined TLR ligand induced Myeloid and Plasmacytoid DC (MDC and PDC) activation of naïve T-cells in HIV+ subjects.
Freshly purified MDC and PDC obtained from HIV+ subjects and healthy controls were cultured in the presence and absence of TLR ligands (poly I∶C or R-848). We evaluated indices of maturation/activation (CD83, CD86, and HLA-DR expression), cytokine secretion (IFN-alpha and IL-6), and ability to activate allogeneic naïve CD4 T-cells to secrete IFN-gamma and IL-2.
MDC from HIV+ subjects had increased spontaneous IL-6 production and increased CD83 and CD86 expression when compared to MDC of controls. MDC IL-6 expression was associated with plasma HIV level. At the same time, poly I∶C induced HLA-DR up-regulation on MDC was reduced in HIV+ persons when compared to controls. The latter finding was associated with impaired ability of MDC from HIV+ subjects to activate allogeneic naïve CD4 T-cells. PDC from HIV+ persons had increased spontaneous and TLR ligand induced IL-6 expression, and increased HLA-DR expression at baseline. The latter was associated with an intact ability of HIV PDC to activate allogeneic naïve CD4 T-cells.
These results have implications for the ability of the HIV+ host to form innate and adaptive responses to HIV and other pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3164669  PMID: 21912648
19.  TLR7/TLR8 Activation Restores Defective Cytokine Secretion by Myeloid Dendritic Cells but Not by Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells in HIV-Infected Pregnant Women and Newborns 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67036.
Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV-1 has been significantly reduced with the use of antiretroviral therapies, resulting in an increased number of HIV-exposed uninfected infants. The consequences of HIV infection on the innate immune system of both mother-newborn are not well understood. In this study, we analyzed peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood (CB) collected from HIV-1-infected and uninfected pregnant women. We measured TNF-α, IL-10 and IFN-α secretion after the stimulation of the cells with agonists of both extracellular Toll-like receptors (TLRs) (TLR2, TLR4 and TLR5) and intracellular TLRs (TLR7, TLR7/8 and TLR9). Moreover, as an indicator of the innate immune response, we evaluated the responsiveness of myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs) and plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) to TLRs that are associated with the antiviral response. Our results showed that peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from HIV-1-infected mothers and CB were defective in TNF-α production after activation by TLR2, TLR5, TLR3 and TLR7. However, the TNF-α response was preserved after TLR7/8 (CL097) stimulation, mainly in the neonatal cells. Furthermore, only CL097 activation was able to induce IL-10 and IFN-α secretion in both maternal and CB cells in the infected group. An increase in IFN-α secretion was observed in CL097-treated CB from HIV-infected mothers compared with control mothers. The effectiveness of CL097 stimulation was confirmed by observation of similar mRNA levels of interferon regulatory factor-7 (IRF-7), IFN-α and TNF-α in PBMCs of both groups. The function of both mDCs and pDCs was markedly compromised in the HIV-infected group, and although TLR7/TLR8 activation overcame the impairment in TNF-α secretion by mDCs, such stimulation was unable to reverse the dysfunctional type I IFN response by pDCs in the HIV-infected samples. Our findings highlight the dysfunction of innate immunity in HIV-infected mother-newborn pairs. The activation of the TLR7/8 pathway could function as an adjuvant to improve maternal-neonatal innate immunity.
PMCID: PMC3694931  PMID: 23826189
20.  Major Depletion of Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells in HIV-2 Infection, an Attenuated Form of HIV Disease 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(11):e1000667.
Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) provide an important link between innate and acquired immunity, mediating their action mainly through IFN-α production. pDC suppress HIV-1 replication, but there is increasing evidence suggesting they may also contribute to the increased levels of cell apoptosis and pan-immune activation associated with disease progression. Although having the same clinical spectrum, HIV-2 infection is characterized by a strikingly lower viremia and a much slower rate of CD4 decline and AIDS progression than HIV-1, irrespective of disease stage. We report here a similar marked reduction in circulating pDC levels in untreated HIV-1 and HIV-2 infections in association with CD4 depletion and T cell activation, in spite of the undetectable viremia found in the majority of HIV-2 patients. Moreover, the same overexpression of CD86 and PD-L1 on circulating pDC was found in both infections irrespective of disease stage or viremia status. Our observation that pDC depletion occurs in HIV-2 infected patients with undetectable viremia indicates that mechanisms other than direct viral infection determine the pDC depletion during persistent infections. However, viremia was associated with an impairment of IFN-α production on a per pDC basis upon TLR9 stimulation. These data support the possibility that diminished function in vitro may relate to prior activation by HIV virions in vivo, in agreement with our finding of higher expression levels of the IFN-α inducible gene, MxA, in HIV-1 than in HIV-2 individuals. Importantly, serum IFN-α levels were not elevated in HIV-2 infected individuals. In conclusion, our data in this unique natural model of “attenuated” HIV immunodeficiency contribute to the understanding of pDC biology in HIV/AIDS pathogenesis, showing that in the absence of detectable viremia a major depletion of circulating pDC in association with a relatively preserved IFN-α production does occur.
Author Summary
Infection by HIV-2, the second AIDS-associated virus, is considered a unique natural model of attenuated HIV disease. HIV-2 infected individuals exhibit much lower levels of circulating virus (viremia) and progress to AIDS at slower rates than HIV-1 infected patients. In this study, we characterized for the first time blood plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC), important mediators between innate and acquired immunity, in HIV-2 infection. We observed a profound reduction in circulating pDC levels in HIV-2 infected patients, even in those with undetectable viremia, to levels similar to those found in HIV-1 infection. Moreover, we documented a more differentiated pDC phenotype in both infected cohorts relative to healthy individuals. Despite these similarities between HIV-1 and HIV-2 infections, pDC from HIV-2 patients with undetectable viremia exhibited, upon in vitro stimulation, a better-preserved ability to produce interferon-α (IFN-α), an important anti-viral cytokine with potential to stimulate other immune cells. Overall, our data suggest that the presence of virus in circulation, although not critical for the reduction in pDC number, appears to be central for the impairment of their function. This study of pDC in HIV-2 infection fills a gap in the understanding of their potential role in HIV/AIDS pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2773933  PMID: 19936055
21.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Mediates Global Disruption of Innate Antiviral Signaling and Immune Defenses within Infected Cells▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(20):10395-10405.
Interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3) is essential for innate intracellular immune defenses that limit virus replication, but these defenses fail to suppress human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, which can ultimately associate with opportunistic coinfections and the progression to AIDS. Here, we examined antiviral defenses in CD4+ cells during virus infection and coinfection, revealing that HIV type 1 (HIV-1) directs a global disruption of innate immune signaling and supports a coinfection model through suppression of IRF-3. T cells responded to paramyxovirus infection to activate IRF-3 and interferon-stimulated gene expression, but they failed to mount a response against HIV-1. The lack of response associated with a marked depletion of IRF-3 but not IRF-7 in HIV-1-infected cells, which supported robust viral replication, whereas ectopic expression of active IRF-3 suppressed HIV-1 infection. IRF-3 depletion was dependent on a productive HIV-1 replication cycle and caused the specific disruption of Toll-like receptor and RIG-I-like receptor innate immune signaling that rendered cells permissive to secondary virus infection. IRF-3 levels were reduced in vivo within CD4+ T cells from patients with acute HIV-1 infection but not from long-term nonprogressors. Our results indicate that viral suppression of IRF-3 promotes HIV-1 infection by disrupting IRF-3-dependent signaling pathways and innate antiviral defenses of the host cell. IRF-3 may direct an innate antiviral response that regulates HIV-1 replication and viral set point while governing susceptibility to opportunistic virus coinfections.
PMCID: PMC2753137  PMID: 19706707
22.  TLR2, but Not TLR4, Is Required for Effective Host Defence against Chlamydia Respiratory Tract Infection in Early Life 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39460.
Chlamydia pneumoniae commonly causes respiratory tract infections in children, and epidemiological investigations strongly link infection to the pathogenesis of asthma. The immune system in early life is immature and may not respond appropriately to pathogens. Toll-like receptor (TLR)2 and 4 are regarded as the primary pattern recognition receptors that sense bacteria, however their contribution to innate and adaptive immunity in early life remains poorly defined. We investigated the role of TLR2 and 4 in the induction of immune responses to Chlamydia muridarum respiratory infection, in neonatal wild-type (Wt) or TLR2-deficient (−/−), 4−/− or 2/4−/− BALB/c mice. Wt mice had moderate disease and infection. TLR2−/− mice had more severe disease and more intense and prolonged infection compared to other groups. TLR4−/− mice were asymptomatic. TLR2/4−/− mice had severe early disease and persistent infection, which resolved thereafter consistent with the absence of symptoms in TLR4−/− mice. Wt mice mounted robust innate and adaptive responses with an influx of natural killer (NK) cells, neutrophils, myeloid (mDCs) and plasmacytoid (pDCs) dendritic cells, and activated CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells into the lungs. Wt mice also had effective production of interferon (IFN)γ in the lymph nodes and lung, and proliferation of lymph node T-cells. TLR2−/− mice had more intense and persistent innate (particularly neutrophil) and adaptive cell responses and IL-17 expression in the lung, however IFNγ responses and T-cell proliferation were reduced. TLR2/4−/− mice had reduced innate and adaptive responses. Most importantly, neutrophil phagocytosis was impaired in the absence of TLR2. Thus, TLR2 expression, particularly on neutrophils, is required for effective control of Chlamydia respiratory infection in early life. Loss of control of infection leads to enhanced but ineffective TLR4-mediated inflammatory responses that prolong disease symptoms. This indicates that TLR2 agonists may be beneficial in the treatment of early life Chlamydia infections and associated diseases.
PMCID: PMC3378543  PMID: 22724018
23.  HIV Patients Developing Primary CNS Lymphoma Lack EBV-Specific CD4+ T Cell Function Irrespective of Absolute CD4+ T Cell Counts 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e96.
In chronic HIV infection, antiretroviral therapy–induced normalization of CD4+ T cell counts (immune reconstitution [IR]) is associated with a decreased incidence of opportunistic diseases. However, some individuals remain at risk for opportunistic diseases despite prolonged normalization of CD4+ T cell counts. Deficient Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-specific CD4+ T cell function may explain the occurrence of EBV-associated opportunistic malignancy—such as primary central nervous system (PCNS) lymphoma—despite recovery of absolute CD4+ T cell counts.
Methods and Findings
Absolute CD4+ T cell counts and EBV-specific CD4+ T cell-dependent interferon-γ production were assessed in six HIV-positive individuals prior to development of PCNS lymphoma (“cases”), and these values were compared with those in 16 HIV-infected matched participants with no sign of EBV-associated pathology (“matched controls”) and 11 nonmatched HIV-negative blood donors. Half of the PCNS lymphoma patients fulfilled IR criteria (defined here as CD4+ T cell counts ≥500/μl blood). EBV-specific CD4+ T cells were assessed 0.5–4.7 y prior to diagnosis of lymphoma. In 0/6 cases versus 13/16 matched controls an EBV-specific CD4+ T cell response was detected (p = 0.007; confidence interval for odds ratio [0–0.40]). PCNS lymphoma patients also differed with regards to this response significantly from HIV-negative blood donors (p < 0.001, confidence interval for odds ratio [0–0.14]), but there was no evidence for a difference between HIV-negative participants and the HIV-positive matched controls (p = 0.47).
Irrespective of absolute CD4+ T cell counts, HIV-positive patients who subsequently developed PCNS lymphoma lacked EBV-specific CD4+ T cell function. Larger, ideally prospective studies are needed to confirm these preliminary data, and clarify the impact of pathogen-specific versus surrogate marker-based assessment of IR on clinical outcome.
In a case-control study from the Swiss HIV cohort, Hess and colleagues report that T-helper responses against Epstein-Barr virus are specifically absent in patients developing CNS lymphoma.
Editors' Summary
AIDS causes disease by inactivating the body's immune responses. Most severely affected are the white blood cells known as T lymphocytes, particularly the CD4+ T cells that recognize infection and enable other cells of the immune system to respond. Advanced HIV infection, marked by very low numbers of CD4+ cells, is associated with a variety of infections and tumors that are rarely seen in people with intact immune systems. People with advanced HIV who receive highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) tend to have increases in their CD4+ cell counts and lose their susceptibility to these so-called opportunistic infections and cancers. For several common opportunistic infections, it is considered safe to discontinue preventive antibiotics after a patient's total CD4+ cell count has returned to normal levels on HAART. Some treated individuals, however, will develop these conditions even after their CD4+ cell counts have returned to normal levels. The reason this happens is unclear.
Why Was This Study Done?
For several years, scientists have speculated that susceptibility to a given opportunistic infection might be due not simply to low total CD4+ cells, but to loss of the specific CD4+ cells that recognize the infection in question. If this theory is correct, then those individuals who develop an opportunistic condition after their total CD4+ cell counts return to normal might be missing the specific cells that respond to the microbe causing the condition. The researchers wanted to test this theory in HIV patients with a brain tumor called primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNS lymphoma). The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes mononucleosis in the general population, has been shown to be a cause of PCNS lymphoma in people with AIDS.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers studied patients who developed PCNS lymphoma while enrolled in the Swiss HIV Cohort, an ongoing study that has enrolled more than 14,000 people. A large cohort was needed to address this question because PCNS lymphoma is uncommon, and indeed only six patients with a confirmed diagnosis were identified. Because they had been followed as part of the cohort study, these patients had given blood samples that could be tested in retrospect. Three of these patients had low CD4+ cell counts prior to lymphoma diagnosis and three had normal CD4+ cell counts, but CD4 responses specifically against EBV were absent or very low in all six patients before they were diagnosed with PCNS lymphoma. The researchers also studied a comparison group of cohort participants with comparable CD4+ cell counts but no PCNS lymphoma, and found that 13/16 of those participants did have CD4 responses to EBV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results support the idea that the action of EBV-specific CD4+ cells, rather than a given level of total CD4+ cells, is needed to prevent PCNS lymphoma. Because only a small number of cases were identified, this must be considered a preliminary result. Given the rarity of PCNS lymphoma, however, especially in people receiving HAART, it seems unlikely that a larger cohort will be available in the near future to provide a more definitive conclusion. Based on this result, it may be useful to perform similar studies of other opportunistic infections. If a “gap” in the CD4+ cell response can be shown to increase the risk of a specific condition, it may become appropriate to test specific CD4 responses before deciding to discontinue preventive treatment as CD4+ cell counts increase on HAART.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Read the accompanying Perspective by Mark Jacobson, MD
The Swiss Cohort Study Web site contains information on related research projects
The UCSF Center for HIV Information's HIV InSite includes resources on HIV immunology and opportunistic infections
PMCID: PMC1831733  PMID: 17388662
24.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection Alters Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Production via Toll-Like Receptor-Dependent Pathways in Alveolar Macrophages and U1 Cells▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(16):7790-7798.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive persons are predisposed to pulmonary infections, even after receiving effective highly active antiretroviral therapy. The reasons for this are unclear but may involve changes in innate immune function. HIV type 1 infection of macrophages impairs effector functions, including cytokine production. We observed decreased constitutive tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) concentrations and increased soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor type II (sTNFRII) in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid samples from HIV-positive subjects compared to healthy controls. Moreover, net proinflammatory TNF-α activity, as measured by the TNF-α/sTNFRII ratio, decreased as HIV-related disease progressed, as manifested by decreasing CD4 cell count and increasing HIV RNA (viral load). Since TNF-α is an important component of the innate immune system and is produced upon activation of Toll-like receptor (TLR) pathways, we hypothesized that the mechanism associated with deficient TNF-α production in the lung involved altered TLR expression or a deficit in the TLR signaling cascade. We found decreased Toll-like receptor 1 (TLR1) and TLR4 surface expression in HIV-infected U1 monocytic cells compared to the uninfected parental U937 cell line and decreased TLR message in alveolar macrophages (AMs) from HIV-positive subjects. In addition, stimulation with TLR1/2 ligand (Pam3Cys) or TLR4 ligand (lipopolysaccharide) resulted in decreased intracellular phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase and subsequent decreased transcription and expression of TNF-α in U1 cells compared to U937 cells. AMs from HIV-positive subjects also showed decreased TNF-α production in response to these TLR2 and TLR4 ligands. We postulate that HIV infection alters expression of TLRs with subsequent changes in mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling and cytokine production that ultimately leads to deficiencies of innate immune responses that predispose HIV-positive subjects to infection.
PMCID: PMC2519548  PMID: 18524817
25.  A Role for microRNA-155 Modulation in the Anti-HIV-1 Effects of Toll-Like Receptor 3 Stimulation in Macrophages 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(9):e1002937.
HIV-1 infection of macrophages plays a key role in viral pathogenesis and progression to AIDS. Polyinosine-polycytidylic acid (poly(I∶C); a synthetic analog of dsRNA) and bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the ligands for Toll-like receptors (TLR) TLR3 and TLR4, respectively, are known to decrease HIV-1 infection in monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs), but the mechanism(s) are incompletely understood. We found that poly(I∶C)- and LPS-stimulation of MDMs abrogated infection by CCR5-using, macrophage-tropic HIV-1, and by vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein-pseudotyped HIV-1 virions, while TLR2, TLR7 or TLR9 agonists only partially reduced infection to varying extent. Suppression of infection, or lack thereof, did not correlate with differential effects on CD4 or CCR5 expression, type I interferon induction, or production of pro-inflammatory cytokines or β-chemokines. Integrated pro-viruses were readily detected in unstimulated, TLR7- and TLR9-stimulated cells, but not in TLR3- or TLR4-stimulated MDMs, suggesting the alteration of post-entry, pre-integration event(s). Using microarray analysis and quantitative reverse transcription (RT)-PCR, we found increased microRNA (miR)-155 levels in MDMs upon TLR3/4- but not TLR7-stimulation, and a miR-155 specific inhibitor (but not a scrambled control) partially restored infectivity in poly(I∶C)-stimulated MDMs. Ectopic miR-155 expression remarkably diminished HIV-1 infection in primary MDMs and cell lines. Furthermore, poly(I∶C)-stimulation and ectopic miR-155 expression did not alter detection of early viral RT products, but both resulted in an accumulation of late RT products and in undetectable or extremely low levels of integrated pro-viruses and 2-LTR circles. Reduced mRNA and protein levels of several HIV-1 dependency factors involved in trafficking and/or nuclear import of pre-integration complexes (ADAM10, TNPO3, Nup153, LEDGF/p75) were found in poly(I∶C)-stimulated and miR-155-transfected MDMs, and a reporter assay suggested they are authentic miR-155 targets. Our findings provide evidence that miR-155 exerts an anti-HIV-1 effect by targeting several HIV-1 dependency factors involved in post-entry, pre-integration events, leading to severely diminished HIV-1 infection.
Author Summary
The infection of macrophages by HIV-1 is a crucial event in the pathogenesis of AIDS. Toll-like receptors (TLR) are a family of receptors present in macrophages – among other cells – that detect various components of microbes and trigger host defenses. It is known that stimulation of macrophages through TLR3 or TLR4 reduces their susceptibility to HIV-1 infection, but the mechanism is not well understood. Here we show for the first time in primary human macrophages that TLR3 and TLR4 but not other TLRs induce higher levels of microRNA-155 – a key regulator of inflammatory and immune responses – and that microRNA-155 has a remarkable anti-HIV-1 effect. MicroRNAs are small, non-coding RNAs that bind to target mRNAs based on sequence complementarity, and lead to reduced protein output. We also show that the anti-HIV-1 effects of microRNA-155 seem to be mediated through targeting the mRNAs of several cellular proteins needed by the virus for trafficking and/or nuclear import of the viral DNA, which is required for integration into the host DNA and successful infection. These studies provide evidence of novel microRNA-155 targets and may serve as the basis for an innovative approach to reduce cellular susceptibility to HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3447756  PMID: 23028330

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