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1.  Cutting Edge: An Antibody Recognizing Ancestral Endogenous Virus Glycoproteins Mediates Antibody-Dependent Cellular Cytotoxicity on HIV-1–Infected Cells 
The failure of antiviral vaccines is often associated with rapid viral escape from specific immune responses. In the past, conserved epitope or algorithmic epitope selections, such as mosaic vaccines, have been designed to diversify immunity and to circumvent potential viral escape. An alternative approach is to identify conserved stable non–HIV-1 self-epitopes present exclusively in HIV-1–infected cells. We showed previously that human endogenous retroviral (HERV) mRNA transcripts and protein are found in cells of HIV-1–infected patients and that HERV-K (HML-2)–specific T cells can eliminate HIV-1–infected cells in vitro. In this article, we demonstrate that a human anti–HERV-K (HML-2) transmembrane protein Ab binds specifically to HIV-1–infected cells and eliminates them through an Ab-dependent cellular cytotoxicity mechanism in vitro. Thus, Abs directed against epitopes other than HIV-1 proteins may have a role in eliminating HIV-1–infected cells and could be targeted in novel vaccine approaches or immunotherapeutic modalities.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1302108
PMCID: PMC4120895  PMID: 25024383
2.  Natural Killer Cells in Perinatally HIV-1-Infected Children Exhibit Less Degranulation Compared to HIV-1-Exposed Uninfected Children and Their Expression of KIR2DL3, NKG2C, and NKp46 Correlates with Disease Severity1 
NK cells play an integral role in the innate immune response by targeting virally infected and transformed cells with direct killing and providing help to adaptive responses through cytokine secretion. Whereas recent studies have focused on NK cells in HIV-1-infected adults, the role of NK cells in perinatally HIV-1-infected children is less studied. Using multiparametric flow cytometric analysis, we assessed the number, phenotype, and function of NK cell subsets in the peripheral blood of perinatally HIV-1-infected children on highly active antiretroviral therapy and compared them to perinatally exposed but uninfected children. We observed an increased frequency of NK cells expressing inhibitory killer Ig-like receptors in infected children. This difference existed despite comparable levels of total NK cells and NK cell subpopulations between the two groups. Additionally, NK cell subsets from infected children expressed, with and without stimulation, significantly lower levels of the degranulation marker CD107, which correlates with NK cell cytotoxicity. Lastly, increased expression of KIR2DL3, NKG2C, and NKp46 on NK cells correlated with decreased CD4+ T-lymphocyte percentage, an indicator of disease severity in HIV-1-infected children. Taken together, these results show that HIV-1-infected children retain a large population of cytotoxically dysfunctional NK cells relative to perinatally exposed uninfected children. This reduced function appears concurrently with distinct NK cell surface receptor expression and is associated with a loss of CD4+ T cells. This finding suggests that NK cells may have an important role in HIV-1 disease pathogenesis in HIV-1-infected children.
PMCID: PMC4271645  PMID: 17709553
3.  T Cells Target APOBEC3 Proteins in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1-Infected Humans and Simian Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Indian Rhesus Macaques 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(11):6073-6080.
APOBEC3 proteins mediate potent antiretroviral activity by hypermutating the retroviral genome during reverse transcription. To counteract APOBEC3 and gain a replicative advantage, lentiviruses such as human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) have evolved the Vif protein, which targets APOBEC3 proteins for proteasomal degradation. However, the proteasome plays a critical role in the generation of T cell peptide epitopes. Whether Vif-mediated destruction of APOBEC3 proteins leads to the generation and presentation of APOBEC3-derived T cell epitopes on the surfaces of lentivirus-infected cells remains unknown. Here, using peptides derived from multiple Vif-sensitive APOBEC3 proteins, we identified APOBEC3-specific T cell responses in both HIV-1-infected patients and SIV-infected rhesus macaques. These results raise the possibility that these T cell responses may be part of the larger antiretroviral immune response.
doi:10.1128/JVI.00579-12
PMCID: PMC3648095  PMID: 23536679
4.  Diminished humoral responses against and reduced gene expression levels of human endogenous retrovirus-K (HERV-K) in psoriasis 
Background
Psoriasis is a multifactorial, chronic disease of skin affecting 2-3% of the world’s population. Genetic studies of psoriasis have identified a number of susceptibility genes that are involved in anti-viral immunity. Furthermore, physiological studies have also found an increase in anti-viral proteins in psoriatic skin. These findings suggest the presence of an anti-viral state in psoriatic skin. However, the triggers for this anti-viral cascade and its consequences for host immunity are not known. Endogenous retroviruses have previously been described in many autoimmune diseases including psoriasis.
Methods
In the present study we examined the humoral immune response against human endogenous retrovirus-K (HERV-K) proteins and the cutaneous expression levels of multiple HERV-K genes in psoriasis patients and healthy controls.
Results
In psoriatic sera we observed a significant decrease in IgM response against three HERV-K proteins: Env surface unit (SU), Env transmembrane protein (TM), and Gag capsid (CA) in comparison to sera obtained from blood bank healthy controls. A decrease in IgG response was also observed against CA. Furthermore, using quantitative RT-PCR we observed a decrease in the expression of HERV-K Env, Gag, Pol and Rec as well as ERV-9 genes in lesional psoriatic skin as compared to healthy skin.
Conclusions
Together, our results suggest that the pro-inflammatory, anti-viral state in psoriasis is associated with diminished expression of HERV-K gene transcripts and a concomitant decrease in humoral responses to HERV-K. Our results indicate that a simple model where continuous, minimally changing HERV-K expression serves as an antigenic trigger in psoriasis might not be correct and further studies are needed to decipher the possible relationship between psoriasis and HERVs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12967-014-0256-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12967-014-0256-4
PMCID: PMC4174287  PMID: 25224121
Psoriasis; HERV-K; Immune response; Expression
5.  HERV-K–specific T cells eliminate diverse HIV-1/2 and SIV primary isolates 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(12):4473-4489.
The genetic diversity of HIV-1 represents a major challenge in vaccine development. In this study, we establish a rationale for eliminating HIV-1–infected cells by targeting cellular immune responses against stable human endogenous retroviral (HERV) antigens. HERV DNA sequences in the human genome represent the remnants of ancient infectious retroviruses. We show that the infection of CD4+ T cells with HIV-1 resulted in transcription of the HML-2 lineage of HERV type K [HERV-K(HML-2)] and the expression of Gag and Env proteins. HERV-K(HML-2)–specific CD8+ T cells obtained from HIV-1–infected human subjects responded to HIV-1–infected cells in a Vif-dependent manner in vitro. Consistent with the proposed mode of action, a HERV-K(HML-2)–specific CD8+ T cell clone exhibited comprehensive elimination of cells infected with a panel of globally diverse HIV-1, HIV-2, and SIV isolates in vitro. We identified a second T cell response that exhibited cross-reactivity between homologous HIV-1-Pol and HERV-K(HML-2)-Pol determinants, raising the possibility that homology between HIV-1 and HERVs plays a role in shaping, and perhaps enhancing, the T cell response to HIV-1. This justifies the consideration of HERV-K(HML-2)–specific and cross-reactive T cell responses in the natural control of HIV-1 infection and for exploring HERV-K(HML-2)–targeted HIV-1 vaccines and immunotherapeutics.
doi:10.1172/JCI64560
PMCID: PMC3533554  PMID: 23143309
6.  Evidence of Invariant Natural Killer T (iNKT) Cell Exhaustion in Sarcoidosis 
European journal of immunology  2013;43(8):10.1002/eji.201243185.
Summary
Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are integral components of immune responses during many chronic diseases, yet their surface phenotypes, subset distribution, and polyfunctional capacity in this environment are largely unknown. Therefore, using flow cytometry, we determined iNKT phenotypic and functional characteristics in subjects with the chronic inflammatory disease sarcoidosis and matched controls. We found that sarcoidosis subjects displayed lower iNKT frequencies, which correlated with lung fibrosis, C-reactive protein levels, and other measures of clinical disease. The CD4− CD8− (DN) iNKT cell population was selectively lower in diseased individuals and the remaining DN iNKT cells exhibited higher frequencies of the activation markers CD69 and CD56. Functionally, both total IFN-gamma+ and the dual-functional IFN-gamma+ TNF-alpha+ iNKT cells were decreased in sarcoidosis subjects and these functional defects correlated with total iNKT circulating frequencies. As the loss of polyfunctionality can reflect functional exhaustion, we measured the surface antigens PD-1 and CD57 and found that levels inversely correlated with dual-functional iNKT cell percentages. These findings reveal that, similar to traditional T cells, iNKT cells may also undergo functional exhaustion, and that circulating iNKT frequencies reflect these defects. PD-1 antagonists may therefore be attractive therapeutic candidates for sarcoidosis and other iNKT-mediated chronic diseases.
doi:10.1002/eji.201243185
PMCID: PMC3869389  PMID: 23661497
invariant natural killer T cells; sarcoidosis; flow cytometry; inflammation; interferon-gamma
7.  Immune Reconstitution of CD56dim NK Cells in Individuals with Primary HIV-1 Infection Treated with Interleukin-2 
The Journal of infectious diseases  2008;197(1):117-125.
Natural killer (NK) cells are believed to play a role in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) disease progression, and NK cell levels are reduced in individuals with chronic HIV-1 infection. Interleukin (IL)–2 therapy results in an expansion of CD4+ T cells as well as NK cells; however, little is known about the detailed effects of IL-2 therapy on NK cells in HIV-1 infection in general and in early infection in particular. Here, we investigated the effects of combined IL-2 therapy and antiretroviral therapy (ART) on the number, frequency, phenotype, and interferon (IFN)–γ production of NK cells in individuals with early HIV-1 infection. Patients randomized to receive combined ART and IL-2 therapy predominantly expanded CD56dim NK cells, and the expansion was greater than in patients randomized to receive ART alone. Importantly, NK cell receptor expression and IFN-γ production were maintained over time. This reconstitution of NK cells may be useful in helping contain viremia if patients discontinue therapy or develop drug resistance.
doi:10.1086/524141
PMCID: PMC4061976  PMID: 18171294
8.  LINE-1 Retrotransposable Element DNA Accumulates in HIV-1-Infected Cells 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(24):13307-13320.
Type 1 long-interspersed nuclear elements (L1s) are autonomous retrotransposable elements that retain the potential for activity in the human genome but are suppressed by host factors. Retrotransposition of L1s into chromosomal DNA can lead to genomic instability, whereas reverse transcription of L1 in the cytosol has the potential to activate innate immune sensors. We hypothesized that HIV-1 infection would compromise cellular control of L1 elements, resulting in the induction of retrotransposition events. Here, we show that HIV-1 infection enhances L1 retrotransposition in Jurkat cells in a Vif- and Vpr-dependent manner. In primary CD4+ cells, HIV-1 infection results in the accumulation of L1 DNA, at least the majority of which is extrachromosomal. These data expose an unrecognized interaction between HIV-1 and endogenous retrotransposable elements, which may have implications for the innate immune response to HIV-1 infection, as well as for HIV-1-induced genomic instability and cytopathicity.
doi:10.1128/JVI.02257-13
PMCID: PMC3838212  PMID: 24089548
9.  Effects of Cellular Activation on Anti-HIV-1 Restriction Factor Expression Profile in Primary Cells 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(21):11924-11929.
Expression of cell-intrinsic antiviral factors suppresses HIV-1 replication. We hypothesized that cellular activation modulates host restriction and susceptibility to HIV-1 infection. We measured the gene expression of 34 antiviral factors in healthy peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Cellular activation induced expression of interferon-stimulated gene 15 (ISG15), tripartite motif 5α (TRIM5α), bone marrow stromal cell antigen 2 (BST-2)/tetherin, and certain apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzyme 3 (APOBEC3) family members. Expression of RTF1, RNA polymerase II-associated factor 1 (PAF1), TRIM11, TRIM26, and BST-2/tetherin correlated with decreased HIV-1 infectivity. This report demonstrates synchronous effects of activation-induced antiviral genes on HIV-1 infectivity, providing candidates for pharmacological manipulation.
doi:10.1128/JVI.02128-13
PMCID: PMC3807358  PMID: 23966394
10.  Identification of Human Endogenous Retrovirus-Specific T Cell Responses in Vertically HIV-1-Infected Subjects ▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(21):11526-11531.
Human endogenous retrovirus (HERV)-specific T cell responses in HIV-1-infected adults have been reported. Whether HERV-specific immunity exists in vertically HIV-1-infected children is unknown. We performed a cross-sectional analysis of HERV-specific T cell responses in 42 vertically HIV-1-infected children. HERV (-H, -K, and -L family)-specific T cell responses were identified in 26 of 42 subjects, with the greatest magnitude observed for the responses to HERV-L. These HERV-specific T cell responses were inversely correlated with the HIV-1 plasma viral load and positively correlated with CD4+ T cell counts. These data indicate that HERV-specific T cells may participate in controlling HIV-1 replication and that certain highly conserved HERV-derived proteins may serve as promising therapeutic vaccine targets in HIV-1-infected children.
doi:10.1128/JVI.05418-11
PMCID: PMC3194955  PMID: 21880743
11.  Environmental Enrichment Alters Splenic Immune Cell Composition and Enhances Secondary Influenza Vaccine Responses in Mice 
Molecular Medicine  2014;20(1):179-190.
Chronic stress has deleterious effects on immune function, which can lead to adverse health outcomes. However, studies investigating the impact of stress reduction interventions on immunity in clinical research have yielded divergent results, potentially stemming from differences in study design and genetic heterogeneity, among other clinical research challenges. To test the hypothesis that reducing glucocorticoid levels enhances certain immune functions, we administered influenza vaccine once (prime) or twice (boost) to mice housed in either standard control caging or environmental enrichment (EE) caging. We have shown that this approach reduces mouse corticosterone production. Compared with controls, EE mice had significantly lower levels of fecal corticosterone metabolites (FCMs) and increased splenic B and T lymphocyte numbers. Corticosterone levels were negatively associated with the numbers of CD19+ (r2 = 0.43, p = 0.0017), CD4+ (r2 = 0.28, p = 0.0154) and CD8+ cells (r2 = 0.20, p = 0.0503). Vaccinated mice showed nonsignificant differences in immunoglobulin G (IgG) titer between caging groups, although EE mice tended to exhibit larger increases in titer from prime to boost than controls; the interaction between the caging group (control versus EE) and vaccine group (prime versus boost) showed a strong statistical trend (cage-group*vaccine-group, F = 4.27, p = 0.0555), suggesting that there may be distinct effects of EE caging on primary versus secondary IgG vaccine responses. Vaccine-stimulated splenocytes from boosted EE mice had a significantly greater frequency of interleukin 5 (IL-5)-secreting cells than boosted controls (mean difference 7.7, IL-5 spot-forming units/106 splenocytes, 95% confidence interval 0.24–135.1, p = 0.0493) and showed a greater increase in the frequency of IL-5–secreting cells from prime to boost. Our results suggest that corticosterone reduction via EE caging was associated with enhanced secondary vaccine responses, but had little effect on primary responses in mice. These findings help identify differences in primary and secondary vaccine responses in relationship to stress mediators that may be relevant in clinical studies.
doi:10.2119/molmed.2013.00158
PMCID: PMC4002849  PMID: 24687160
12.  Vaccination against Endogenous Retrotransposable Element Consensus Sequences Does Not Protect Rhesus Macaques from SIVsmE660 Infection and Replication 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92012.
The enormous sequence diversity of HIV remains a major roadblock to the development of a prophylactic vaccine and new approaches to induce protective immunity are needed. Endogenous retrotransposable elements (ERE) such as endogenous retrovirus K (ERV)-K and long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1) are activated during HIV-1-infection and could represent stable, surrogate targets to eliminate HIV-1-infected cells. Here, we explored the hypothesis that vaccination against ERE would protect macaques from acquisition and replication of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). Following vaccination with antigens derived from LINE-1 and ERV-K consensus sequences, animals mounted immune responses that failed to delay acquisition of SIVsmE660. We observed no differences in acute or set point viral loads between ERE-vaccinated and control animals suggesting that ERE-specific responses were not protective. Indeed, ERE-specific T cells failed to expand anamnestically in vivo following infection with SIVsmE660 and did not recognize SIV-infected targets in vitro, in agreement with no significant induction of targeted ERE mRNA by SIV in macaque CD4+ T cells. Instead, lower infection rates and viral loads correlated significantly to protective TRIM5α alleles. Cumulatively, these data demonstrate that vaccination against the selected ERE consensus sequences in macaques did not lead to immune-mediated recognition and killing of SIV-infected cells, as has been shown for HIV-infected human cells using patient-derived HERV-K-specific T cells. Thus, further research is required to identify the specific nonhuman primate EREs and retroviruses that recapitulate the activity of HIV-1 in human cells. These results also highlight the complexity in translating observations of the interplay between HIV-1 and human EREs to animal models.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092012
PMCID: PMC3961289  PMID: 24651676
13.  Targeting of Conserved Gag-Epitopes in Early HIV Infection Is Associated with Lower Plasma Viral Load and Slower CD4+ T Cell Depletion 
Abstract
We aimed to investigate whether the character of the immunodominant HIV-Gag peptide (variable or conserved) targeted by CD8+ T cells in early HIV infection would influence the quality and quantity of T cell responses, and whether this would affect the rate of disease progression. Treatment-naive HIV-infected study subjects within the OPTIONS cohort at the University of California, San Francisco, were monitored from an estimated 44 days postinfection for up to 6 years. CD8+ T cells responses targeting HLA-matched HIV-Gag-epitopes were identified and characterized by multicolor flow cytometry. The autologous HIV gag sequences were obtained. We demonstrate that patients targeting a conserved HIV-Gag-epitope in early infection maintained their epitope-specific CD8+ T cell response throughout the study period. Patients targeting a variable epitope showed decreased immune responses over time, although there was no limitation of the functional profile, and they were likely to target additional variable epitopes. Maintained immune responses to conserved epitopes were associated with no or limited sequence evolution within the targeted epitope. Patients with immune responses targeting conserved epitopes had a significantly lower median viral load over time compared to patients with responses targeting a variable epitope (0.63 log10 difference). Furthermore, the rate of CD4+ T cell decline was slower for subjects targeting a conserved epitope (0.85% per month) compared to subjects targeting a variable epitope (1.85% per month). Previous studies have shown that targeting of antigens based on specific HLA types is associated with a better disease course. In this study we show that categorizing epitopes based on their variability is associated with clinical outcome.
doi:10.1089/aid.2012.0171
PMCID: PMC3581067  PMID: 23140171
14.  Decay Kinetics of HIV-1 Specific T Cell Responses in Vertically HIV-1 Exposed Seronegative Infants 
Objective: The majority of infants born, in developed countries, to HIV-1 positive women are exposed to the HIV-1 virus in utero or peri/post-partum, but are born uninfected. We, and others, have previously shown HIV-1 specific T cell responses in HIV-1 exposed seronegative (HESN) neonates/infants. Our objective in this study was to examine the rate of decay in their HIV-1 specific T cell response over time from birth. Design: Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of HIV-1 specific T cell responses in HESN infants were performed. Methods: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were isolated from 18 HIV-1 DNA PCR negative infants born to HIV-1 infected mothers receiving care at the Jacobi Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA. PBMC were examined for T cell responses to HIV-1 antigens by interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) ELISPOT. Results: PBMC from 15 HESN neonates/infants were analyzed. We observed a decay of HIV-1 specific T cell responses from birth at a rate of −0.599 spot forming unit/106 cells per day, with a median half-life decay rate of 21.38 weeks (13.39–115.8). Conclusion: Our results support the dynamic nature of T cell immunity in the context of a developing immune system. The disparate rate of decay with studies of adults placed on antiretroviral drugs suggests that antigen specific T cell responses are driven by the natural rate of decay of the T cell sub-populations themselves.
doi:10.3389/fimmu.2011.00094
PMCID: PMC3341962  PMID: 22566883
HIV-1; exposed seronegative; vertically exposed; neonates; T cells
15.  Trans-activation, post-transcriptional maturation, and induction of antibodies to HERV-K (HML-2) envelope transmembrane protein in HIV-1 infection 
Retrovirology  2014;11:10.
Background
Human Endogenous Retroviruses (HERVs) comprise about 8% of the human genome and have lost their ability to replicate or to produce infectious particles after having accumulated mutations over time. We assessed the kinetics of expression of HERV-K (HML-2) Envelope mRNA transcript and surface unit (SU) and transmembrane (TM) subunit proteins during HIV-1 infection. We also mapped the specificity of the humoral response to HERV-K (HML-2) Envelope protein in HIV-1 infected subjects at different stages of disease, and correlated the response with plasma viral load.
Results
We found that HIV-1 modified HERV-K (HML-2) Env mRNA expression, resulting in the expression of a fully N-glycosylated HERV-K (HML-2) envelope protein on the cell surface. Serological mapping of HERV-K (HML-2) envelope protein linear epitopes revealed two major immunogenic domains, one on SU and another on the ectodomain of TM. The titers of HERV-K (HML-2) TM antibodies were dramatically increased in HIV-1 infected subjects (p < 0.0001). HIV-1 infected adults who control HIV-1 in the absence of therapy (“elite” controllers) had a higher titer response against TM compared to antiretroviral-treated adults (p < 0.0001) and uninfected adults (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions
These data collectively suggest that HIV-1 infection induces fully glycosylated HERV-K (HML-2) envelope TM protein to which antibodies are induced. These anti-HERV-K (HML-2) TM antibodies are a potential marker of HIV-1 infection, and are at higher titer in elite controllers. HERV-K (HML-2) envelope TM protein may be a new therapeutic target in HIV-1 infection.
doi:10.1186/1742-4690-11-10
PMCID: PMC3907665  PMID: 24472118
HIV; Antibody; HERV; Endogenous retroviruses; Transmembrane; Envelope; Elite controllers; Alternative transcripts
16.  Composition and Function of T Cell Subpopulations Are Slow to Change Despite Effective Antiretroviral Treatment of HIV Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85613.
The ability to reconstitute a normal immune system with antiretroviral therapy in the setting of HIV infection remains uncertain. This study aimed to characterize quantitative and qualitative aspects of various T cell subpopulations that do not improve despite effective ART. CD4∶CD8 ratio was evaluated in HIV-infected subjects with viral loads >10,000 copies/µl (“non-controllers”, n = 42), those with undetectable viral loads on ART (“ART-suppressed”, n = 53), and HIV-uninfected subjects (n = 22). In addition, T cell phenotype and function were examined in 25 non-controllers, 18 ART-suppressed, and 7 HIV-uninfected subjects. CD4∶CD8 ratio in non-controllers, ART-suppressed, and HIV-uninfected subjects was 0.25, 0.48, and 1.95 respectively (P<0.0001 for all comparisons). The increased ratio in ART-suppressed compared to non-controllers was driven by an increase of CD4+ T cells, with no change in the expanded CD8+ T cell population. Expansion of differentiated (CD28−CD27−CD45RA+/−CCR7−) T cell subpopulations persisted despite ART and minimal changes were noted in naïve T cell frequencies over time. Increased number of CD8+CD28− T cells and increased CD8+ CMV-specific T cell responses were associated with a decreased CD4∶CD8 ratio. Measures of T cell function demonstrated persistence of high frequencies of CD8+ T cells producing IFN–γ. Lastly, though all CD8+ subpopulations demonstrated significantly lower Ki67 expression in ART-suppressed subjects, CD4+ T cell subpopulations did not consistently show this decrease, thus demonstrating different proliferative responses in the setting of T cell depletion. In summary, this study demonstrated that CD4∶CD8 ratios remained significantly decreased and naïve T cell numbers were slow to increase despite long-term viral suppression on ART. In addition, there is a evidence of differential regulation of the CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subpopulations, suggesting independent homeostatic regulation of the two compartments.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085613
PMCID: PMC3897457  PMID: 24465619
17.  CD56negCD16+ NK cells are activated mature NK cells with impaired effector function during HIV-1 infection 
Retrovirology  2013;10:158.
Background
A subset of CD3negCD56negCD16+ Natural Killer (NK) cells is highly expanded during chronic HIV-1 infection. The role of this subset in HIV-1 pathogenesis remains unclear. The lack of NK cell lineage-specific markers has complicated the study of minor NK cell subpopulations.
Results
Using CD7 as an additional NK cell marker, we found that CD3negCD56negCD16+ cells are a heterogeneous population comprised of CD7+ NK cells and CD7neg non-classical myeloid cells. CD7+CD56negCD16+ NK cells are significantly expanded in HIV-1 infection. CD7+CD56negCD16+ NK cells are mature and express KIRs, the C-type lectin-like receptors NKG2A and NKG2C, and natural cytotoxicity receptors similar to CD7+CD56+CD16+ NK cells. CD7+CD56neg NK cells in healthy donors produced minimal IFNγ following K562 target cell or IL-12 plus IL-18 stimulation; however, they degranulated in response to K562 stimulation similar to CD7+CD56+ NK cells. HIV-1 infection resulted in reduced IFNγ secretion following K562 or cytokine stimulation by both NK cell subsets compared to healthy donors. Decreased granzyme B and perforin expression and increased expression of CD107a in the absence of stimulation, particularly in HIV-1-infected subjects, suggest that CD7+CD56negCD16+ NK cells may have recently engaged target cells. Furthermore, CD7+CD56negCD16+ NK cells have significantly increased expression of CD95, a marker of NK cell activation.
Conclusions
Taken together, CD7+CD56negCD16+ NK cells are activated, mature NK cells that may have recently engaged target cells.
doi:10.1186/1742-4690-10-158
PMCID: PMC3892122  PMID: 24351015
Natural killer cells; NK cells; CD7; Human immunodeficiency virus; HIV-1; HIV pathogenesis; CD56neg NK cells
18.  Expression profile of host restriction factors in HIV-1 elite controllers 
Retrovirology  2013;10:106.
Background
Several host-encoded antiviral factors suppress HIV-1 replication in a cell-autonomous fashion in vitro. The relevance of these defenses to the control of HIV-1 in vivo remains to be elucidated. We hypothesized that cellular restriction of HIV-1 replication plays a significant role in the observed suppression of HIV-1 in "elite controllers", individuals who maintain undetectable levels of viremia in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART). We comprehensively compared the expression levels of 34 host restriction factors and cellular activation levels in CD4+ T cells and sorted T cell subsets between elite controllers, HIV-1-infected (untreated) non-controllers, ART-suppressed, and uninfected individuals.
Results
Expression of schlafen 11, a codon usage-based inhibitor of HIV-1 protein synthesis, was significantly elevated in CD4+ T cells from elite controllers as compared to both non-controllers (p = 0.048) and ART-suppressed individuals (p = 0.024), with this effect most apparent in central memory CD4+ T cells. Schlafen 11 expression levels were comparable between controllers and uninfected individuals. Cumulative restriction factor expression was positively correlated with CD4+ T cell activation (r2 = 0.597, p < 0.0001), viral load (r2 = 0.34, p = 0.015), and expression of ISG15 (r2 = 0.73, p < 0.0001), a marker of interferon exposure. APOBEC3C, APOBEC3D, CTR9, TRIM26, and TRIM32 were elevated in elite controllers with respect to ART-suppressed individuals, while levels were comparable to uninfected individuals and non-controllers.
Conclusions
Host restriction factor expression typically scales with cellular activation levels. However, the elevated mRNA and protein expression of schlafen 11, despite low activation and viral load, violates the global pattern and may be a signature characteristic of HIV-1 elite control.
doi:10.1186/1742-4690-10-106
PMCID: PMC3827935  PMID: 24131498
Elite controllers; Intrinsic immunity; Retroviral restriction factors; APOBEC3; BST2/tetherin; TRIM; schlafen 11; p21; T cell activation
19.  Differentiation and functional regulation of human fetal NK cells 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(9):3889-3901.
The human fetal immune system is naturally exposed to maternal allogeneic cells, maternal antibodies, and pathogens. As such, it is faced with a considerable challenge with respect to the balance between immune reactivity and tolerance. Here, we show that fetal natural killer (NK) cells differentiate early in utero and are highly responsive to cytokines and antibody-mediated stimulation but respond poorly to HLA class I–negative target cells. Strikingly, expression of killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) did not educate fetal NK cells but rendered them hyporesponsive to target cells lacking HLA class I. In addition, fetal NK cells were highly susceptible to TGF-β–mediated suppression, and blocking of TGF-β signaling enhanced fetal NK cell responses to target cells. Our data demonstrate that KIR-mediated hyporesponsiveness and TGF-β–mediated suppression are major factors determining human fetal NK cell hyporesponsiveness to HLA class I–negative target cells and provide a potential mechanism for fetal-maternal tolerance in utero. Finally, our results provide a basis for understanding the role of fetal NK cells in pregnancy complications in which NK cells could be involved, for example, during in utero infections and anti-RhD–induced fetal anemia.
doi:10.1172/JCI68989
PMCID: PMC3754261  PMID: 23945237
20.  Vaccination with Cancer- and HIV Infection-associated Endogenous Retrotransposable Elements is Safe and Immunogenic 
The expression of endogenous retrotransposable elements including Long Interspersed Nuclear Element-1 (LINE-1 or L1) and Human Endogenous Retrovirus (HERV)-K accompanies neoplastic transformation and infection with viruses such as HIV. The ability to engender immunity safely against such self-antigens would facilitate the development of novel vaccines and immunotherapies. Here we address the safety and immunogenicity of vaccination with these elements. We employed immunohistochemical analysis and literature-precedent to identify potential off-target tissues in humans and establish their translatability in preclinical species to guide safety assessments. Immunization of mice with murine L1 Open Reading Frame-2 (L1O2) induced strong CD8 T cell responses without detectable tissue damage. Similarly, immunization of rhesus macaques with human L1O2 (96% identity with macaque), and Simian ERV (SERV)-K Gag and Env induced polyfunctional T cell responses to all antigens, and antibody responses to SERV-K Env. There were no adverse safety or pathology findings related to vaccination. These studies provide the first evidence that immune responses can be induced safely against this class of self antigens, and pave the way for their investigation as HIV- or tumor-associated targets.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1200079
PMCID: PMC3401319  PMID: 22745376
21.  Variability of HIV-1 Genomes among Children and Adolescents from São Paulo, Brazil 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e62552.
Background
Genetic variability is a major feature of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and considered the key factor to frustrating efforts to halt the virus epidemic. In this study, we aimed to investigate the genetic variability of HIV-1 strains among children and adolescents born from 1992 to 2009 in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Methodology
Plasma and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were collected from 51 HIV-1-positive children and adolescents on ART followed between September 1992 and July 2009. After extraction, the genetic materials were used in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify the viral near full length genomes (NFLGs) from 5 overlapped fragments. NFLGs and partial amplicons were directly sequenced and data were phylogenetically inferred.
Results
Of the 51 samples studied, the NFLGs and partial fragments of HIV-1 from 42 PBMCs and 25 plasma were successfully subtyped. Results based on proviral DNA revealed that 22 (52.4%) patients were infected with subtype B, 16 (38.1%) were infected with BF1 mosaic variants and 4 (9.5%) were infected with sub-subtype F1. All the BF1 recombinants were unique and distinct from any previously identified unique or circulating recombinant forms in South America. Evidence of dual infections was detected in 3 patients coinfected with the same or distinct HIV-1 subtypes. Ten of the 31 (32.2%) and 12 of the 21 (57.1%) subjects with recovered proviral and plasma, respectively, protease sequences were infected with major mutants resistant to protease inhibitors. The V3 sequences of 14 patients with available sequences from PBMC/or plasma were predicted to be R5-tropic virus except for two patients who harbored an X4 strain.
Conclusions
The high proportion of HIV-1 BF1 recombinant, coinfection rate and vertical transmission in Brazil merits urgent attention and effective measures to reduce the transmission of HIV among spouses and sex partners.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062552
PMCID: PMC3646872  PMID: 23667488
22.  CD57 Expression and Cytokine Production by T Cells in Lesional and Unaffected Skin from Patients with Psoriasis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e52144.
Background
The immunopathogenic mechanisms leading to psoriasis remain unresolved. CD57 is a marker of replicative inability and immunosenescence on CD8+ T cells and the proportion of CD57 expressing CD8+ T cells is increased in a number of inflammatory conditions.
Methodology
We examined the expression of CD57 on T cells in the skin of patients affected with psoriasis, comparing lesional and unaffected skin. We also assessed functionality of the T cells by evaluating the secretion of several inflammatory cytokines (IL-17A, IFN-gamma, IL-2, IL-33, TNF-alpha, IL-21, IL-22, and IL-27), from cell-sorted purified CD4+ and CD8+ T cells isolated from lesional and unaffected skin biopsies of psoriasis patients.
Principal Findings
We observed that the frequency of CD57+CD4+ and CD57+CD8+ T cells was significantly higher in unaffected skin of psoriasis patients compared to lesional skin. Sorted CD4+ T cells from psoriatic lesional skin produced higher levels of IL-17A, IL-22, and IFN-gamma compared to unaffected skin, while sorted CD8+ T cells from lesional skin produced higher levels of IL-17, IL-22, IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and IL-2 compared to unaffected skin.
Conclusions/Significance
These findings suggest that T cells in unaffected skin from psoriasis patients exhibit a phenotype compatible with replicative inability. As they have a lower replicative capacity, CD57+ T cells are less frequent in lesional tissue due to the high cellular turnover.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052144
PMCID: PMC3585296  PMID: 23468834
23.  Expansion in CD39+ CD4+ Immunoregulatory T Cells and Rarity of Th17 Cells in HTLV-1 Infected Patients Is Associated with Neurological Complications 
HTLV-1 infection is associated with several inflammatory disorders, including the neurodegenerative condition HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). It is unclear why a minority of infected subjects develops HAM/TSP. CD4+ T cells are the main target of infection and play a pivotal role in regulating immunity to HTLV and are hypothesized to participate in the pathogenesis of HAM/TSP. The CD39 ectonucleotidase receptor is expressed on CD4+ T cells and based on co-expression with CD25, marks T cells with distinct regulatory (CD39+CD25+) and effector (CD39+CD25−) function. Here, we investigated the expression of CD39 on CD4+ T cells from a cohort of HAM/TSP patients, HTLV-1 asymptomatic carriers (AC), and matched uninfected controls. The frequency of CD39+ CD4+ T cells was increased in HTLV-1 infected patients, regardless of clinical status. More importantly, the proportion of the immunostimulatory CD39+CD25− CD4+ T-cell subset was significantly elevated in HAM/TSP patients as compared to AC and phenotypically had lower levels of the immunoinhibitory receptor, PD-1. We saw no difference in the frequency of CD39+CD25+ regulatory (Treg) cells between AC and HAM/TSP patients. However, these cells transition from being anergic to displaying a polyfunctional cytokine response following HTLV-1 infection. CD39−CD25+ T cell subsets predominantly secreted the inflammatory cytokine IL-17. We found that HAM/TSP patients had significantly fewer numbers of IL-17 secreting CD4+ T cells compared to uninfected controls. Taken together, we show that the expression of CD39 is upregulated on CD4+ T cells HAM/TSP patients. This upregulation may play a role in the development of the proinflammatory milieu through pathways both distinct and separate among the different CD39 T cell subsets. CD39 upregulation may therefore serve as a surrogate diagnostic marker of progression and could potentially be a target for interventions to reduce the development of HAM/TSP.
Author Summary
Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) has been estimated to infect 10–20 million worldwide. The majority of infected individuals are asymptomatic, however, 2% to 3% develop a neurodegenerative disorder called HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). The reasons why persons with HTLV-1 develop these complications appear to be multiple and complex. Cellular immune response has been implicated in the development of inflammatory alterations in these patients, however the pathogenic mechanisms for disease progression remain unclear. Regulatory CD4+ T cells (Treg) and Th17 cells derive from a common progenitor and conflicting results regarding frequency and function are found in the development of HAM/TSP. The expression of the CD39 ectoenzyme, a molecule that can mediate immunostimulatory and inhibitory effects, is useful to define IL-17 secreting cell populations, suppressive CD4+ T cells and CD4+ T cells with immunostimulatory properties. The interplay of these T-cell subsets may reveal important aspects of HAM/TSP pathogenesis. In this study, we performed an evaluation of the immunoregulatory CD4+ T-cell subsets defined by CD39 expression including Th17 cells. Our results present phenotypic and functional alterations in the CD4+ T cell profile that could account for the transition from asymptomatic status to HAM/TSP, predicting clinical disease risk and tracking disease progression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002028
PMCID: PMC3566991  PMID: 23409198
24.  Human Endogenous Retrovirus K(HML-2) Gag and Env specific T-cell responses are not detected in HTLV-I-infected subjects using standard peptide screening methods 
Background
An estimated 10–20 million individuals are infected with the retrovirus human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1). While the majority of these individuals remain asymptomatic, 0.3-4% develop a neurodegenerative inflammatory disease, termed HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). HAM/TSP results in the progressive demyelination of the central nervous system and is a differential diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). The etiology of HAM/TSP is unclear, but evidence points to a role for CNS-inflitrating T-cells in pathogenesis. Recently, the HTLV-1-Tax protein has been shown to induce transcription of the human endogenous retrovirus (HERV) families W, H and K. Intriguingly, numerous studies have implicated these same HERV families in MS, though this association remains controversial.
Results
Here, we explore the hypothesis that HTLV-1-infection results in the induction of HERV antigen expression and the elicitation of HERV-specific T-cells responses which, in turn, may be reactive against neurons and other tissues. PBMC from 15 HTLV-1-infected subjects, 5 of whom presented with HAM/TSP, were comprehensively screened for T-cell responses to overlapping peptides spanning HERV-K(HML-2) Gag and Env. In addition, we screened for responses to peptides derived from diverse HERV families, selected based on predicted binding to predicted optimal epitopes. We observed a lack of responses to each of these peptide sets.
Conclusions
Thus, although the limited scope of our screening prevents us from conclusively disproving our hypothesis, the current study does not provide data supporting a role for HERV-specific T-cell responses in HTLV-1 associated immunopathology.
doi:10.1186/1477-5751-12-3
PMCID: PMC3560086  PMID: 23305161
HTLV-I; Human endogenous retrovirus; T-cells; HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis
25.  Protective Effect of Human Endogenous Retrovirus K dUTPase Variants on Psoriasis Susceptibility 
Previous genetic and functional studies have implicated the human endogenous retrovirus K (HERV-K) dUTPase located within the PSORS1 locus in the MHC region as a candidate psoriasis gene. Here, we describe a variant discovery and case-control association study of HERV-K dUTPase variants in 708 psoriasis cases and 349 healthy controls. Five common HERV-K dUTPase variants were found to be highly associated with psoriasis, with the strongest association occurring at the missense SNP rs3134774 (K158R, p=3.28 × 10-15, OR=2.36 [1.91-2.92]). After adjusting the association of the HERV-K dUTPase variants for the potential confounding effects of HLA alleles associated with psoriasis, the HERV-K SNPs rs9264082 and rs3134774 remained significantly associated. Haplotype analysis revealed that HERV-K haplotypes containing the non-risk alleles for rs3134774 and rs9264082 significantly reduced the risk of psoriasis. Functional testing showed higher antibody responses against recombinant HERV-K dUTPase in psoriasis patients compared to controls (p<0.05), as well as higher T-cell responses against a single HERV-K dUTPase peptide (p<0.05). Our data support an independent role for the HERV-K dUTPase on psoriasis susceptibility, and suggest the need for additional studies to clarify the role of this dUTPase in the pathogenesis of psoriasis.
doi:10.1038/jid.2012.69
PMCID: PMC3375357  PMID: 22437317

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