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1.  Antimicrobial and immune modulatory effects of lactic acid and short chain fatty acids produced by vaginal microbiota associated with eubiosis and bacterial vaginosis 
Lactic acid and short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) produced by vaginal microbiota have reported antimicrobial and immune modulatory activities indicating their potential as biomarkers of disease and/or disease susceptibility. In asymptomatic women of reproductive-age the vaginal microbiota is comprised of lactic acid-producing bacteria that are primarily responsible for the production of lactic acid present at ~110 mM and acidifying the vaginal milieu to pH ~3.5. In contrast, bacterial vaginosis (BV), a dysbiosis of the vaginal microbiota, is characterized by decreased lactic acid-producing microbiota and increased diverse anaerobic bacteria accompanied by an elevated pH>4.5. BV is also characterized by a dramatic loss of lactic acid and greater concentrations of mixed SCFAs including acetate, propionate, butyrate, and succinate. Notably women with lactic acid-producing microbiota have more favorable reproductive and sexual health outcomes compared to women with BV. Regarding the latter, BV is associated with increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. In vitro studies demonstrate that lactic acid produced by vaginal microbiota has microbicidal and virucidal activities that may protect against STIs and endogenous opportunistic bacteria as well as immune modulatory properties that require further characterization with regard to their effects on the vaginal mucosa. In contrast, BV-associated SCFAs have far less antimicrobial activity with the potential to contribute to a pro-inflammatory vaginal environment. Here we review the composition of lactic acid and SCFAs in respective states of eubiosis (non-BV) or dysbiosis (BV), their effects on susceptibility to bacterial/viral STIs and whether they have inherent microbicidal/virucidal and immune modulatory properties. We also explore their potential as biomarkers for the presence and/or increased susceptibility to STIs.
PMCID: PMC4451362  PMID: 26082720
lactic acid; short chain fatty acids; bacterial vaginosis; lactobacilli; vaginal microbiota; metabolites; microbiome
2.  Silent mutations at codons 65 and 66 in reverse transcriptase alleviate indel formation and restore fitness in subtype B HIV-1 containing D67N and K70R drug resistance mutations 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(6):3256-3271.
Resistance to combined antiretroviral therapy (cART) in HIV-1-infected individuals is typically due to nonsynonymous mutations that change the protein sequence; however, the selection of synonymous or ‘silent’ mutations in the HIV-1 genome with cART has been reported. These silent K65K and K66K mutations in the HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) occur in over 35% of drug-experienced individuals and are highly associated with the thymidine analog mutations D67N and K70R, which confer decreased susceptibility to most nucleoside and nucleotide RT inhibitors. However, the basis for selection of these silent mutations under selective drug pressure is unknown. Using Illumina next-generation sequencing, we demonstrate that the D67N/K70R substitutions in HIV-1 RT increase indel frequency by 100-fold at RT codons 65–67, consequently impairing viral fitness. Introduction of either K65K or K66K into HIV-1 containing D67N/K70R reversed the error-prone DNA synthesis at codons 65–67 in RT and improved viral replication fitness, but did not impact RT inhibitor drug susceptibility. These data provide new mechanistic insights into the role of silent mutations selected during antiretroviral therapy and have broader implications for the relevance of silent mutations in the evolution and fitness of RNA viruses.
PMCID: PMC4381058  PMID: 25765644
3.  Biology of Mucosally Transmitted Sexual Infection—Translating the Basic Science into Novel HIV Intervention: A Workshop Summary 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2012;28(11):1389-1396.
A group of over 200 international scientists came together on April 15 in Sydney, Australia just before the 2012 International Microbicides Conference as a part of a workshop to address the basic concepts and factors that modulate HIV infection at the mucosal surface. The meeting focused on defining the interaction between virus, prevailing host physiology, microbiota, and innate and adaptive immune responses and how they combine to impact the outcome at the moment of potential viral transmission. Speakers examined the biology of HIV entry during transmission, innate and natural antiviral mechanisms at the mucosa, microbicide efficacy, pharmacokinetic, and pharmacodynamics, animal models, and opportunities for combining HIV prevention strategies. Other viral infection models both in vivo and in vitro were considered for the insights they provided into HIV transmission events. The workshop raised important questions that we need to answer to further our basic understanding of host and viral factors influencing HIV transmission to inform the development of novel prevention strategies.
PMCID: PMC3484787  PMID: 22966898
4.  N348I in HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase Counteracts the Synergy Between Zidovudine and Nevirapine 
The efficacy of regimens that include both zidovudine and nevirapine can be explained by the synergistic interactions between these drugs. N348I in HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) confers decreased susceptibility to zidovudine and nevirapine. Here we demonstrate that N348I reverses the synergistic inhibition of HIV-1 by zidovudine and nevirapine. Also, the efficiency of zidovudine-monophosphate excision in the presence of nevirapine is greater for N348I HIV-1 RT compared to the wild-type enzyme. These data help explain the frequent selection of N348I in regimens that contain zidovudine and nevirapine, and suggest that the selection of N348I should be monitored in resource-limited settings where these drugs are routinely used.
PMCID: PMC3458157  PMID: 22743599
HIV-1 drug resistance; reverse transcriptase inhibitors; antiretroviral therapy; N348I; connection subdomain; C-terminal domain; combination therapy; zidovudine; nevirapine
5.  HIV-1 Infection of T Cells and Macrophages Are Differentially Modulated by Virion-Associated Hck: A Nef-Dependent Phenomenon 
Viruses  2013;5(9):2235-2252.
The proline repeat motif (PxxP) of Nef is required for interaction with the SH3 domains of macrophage-specific Src kinase Hck. However, the implication of this interaction for viral replication and infectivity in macrophages and T lymphocytes remains unclear. Experiments in HIV-1 infected macrophages confirmed the presence of a Nef:Hck complex which was dependent on the Nef proline repeat motif. The proline repeat motif of Nef also enhanced both HIV-1 infection and replication in macrophages, and was required for incorporation of Hck into viral particles. Unexpectedly, wild-type Hck inhibited infection of macrophages, but Hck was shown to enhance infection of primary T lymphocytes. These results indicate that the interaction between Nef and Hck is important for Nef-dependent modulation of viral infectivity. Hck-dependent enhancement of HIV-1 infection of T cells suggests that Nef-Hck interaction may contribute to the spread of HIV-1 infection from macrophages to T cells by modulating events in the producer cell, virion and target cell.
PMCID: PMC3798898  PMID: 24051604
HIV-1; Nef; Hck; macrophage; T lymphocyte; virion; infectivity
6.  Sensitive Assessment of the Virologic Outcomes of Stopping and Restarting Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor-Based Antiretroviral Therapy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69266.
Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI)-resistant mutants have been shown to emerge after interruption of suppressive NNRTI-based antiretroviral therapy (ART) using routine testing. The aim of this study was to quantify the risk of resistance by sensitive testing and correlate the detection of resistance with NNRTI concentrations after treatment interruption and virologic responses after treatment resumption.
Resistance-associated mutations (RAMs) and NNRTI concentrations were studied in plasma from 132 patients who interrupted suppressive ART within SMART. RAMs were detected by Sanger sequencing, allele-specific PCR, and ultra-deep sequencing. NNRTI concentrations were measured by sensitive high-performance liquid chromatography.
Four weeks after NNRTI interruption, 19/31 (61.3%) and 34/39 (87.2%) patients showed measurable nevirapine (>0.25 ng/ml) or efavirenz (>5 ng/ml) concentrations, respectively. Median eight weeks after interruption, 22/131 (16.8%) patients showed ≥1 NNRTI-RAM, including eight patients with NNRTI-RAMs detected only by sensitive testing. The adjusted odds ratio (OR) of NNRTI-RAM detection was 7.62 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.52, 38.30; p = 0.01) with nevirapine or efavirenz concentrations above vs. below the median measured in the study population. Staggered interruption, whereby nucleos(t)ide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) were continued for median nine days after NNRTI interruption, did not prevent NNRTI-RAMs, but increased detection of NRTI-RAMs (OR 4.25; 95% CI 1.02, 17.77; p = 0.03). After restarting NNRTI-based ART (n = 90), virologic suppression rates <400 copies/ml were 8/13 (61.5%) with NNRTI-RAMs, 7/11 (63.6%) with NRTI-RAMs only, and 51/59 (86.4%) without RAMs. The ORs of re-suppression were 0.18 (95% CI 0.03, 0.89) and 0.17 (95% CI 0.03, 1.15) for patients with NNRTI-RAMs or NRTI-RAMs only respectively vs. those without RAMs (p = 0.04).
Detection of resistant mutants in the rebound viremia after interruption of efavirenz- or nevirapine-based ART affects outcomes once these drugs are restarted. Further studies are needed to determine RAM persistence in untreated patients and impact on newer NNRTIs.
PMCID: PMC3715458  PMID: 23874928
7.  Vaginal concentrations of lactic acid potently inactivate HIV 
When Lactobacillus spp. dominate the vaginal microbiota of women of reproductive age they acidify the vagina to pH <4.0 by producing ∼1% lactic acid in a nearly racemic mixture of d- and l-isomers. We determined the HIV virucidal activity of racemic lactic acid, and its d- and l-isomers, compared with acetic acid and acidity alone (by the addition of HCl).
HIV-1 and HIV-2 were transiently treated with acids in the absence or presence of human genital secretions at 37°C for different time intervals, then immediately neutralized and residual infectivity determined in the TZM-bl reporter cell line.
l-lactic acid at 0.3% (w/w) was 17-fold more potent than d-lactic acid in inactivating HIVBa-L. Complete inactivation of different HIV-1 subtypes and HIV-2 was achieved with ≥0.4% (w/w) l-lactic acid. At a typical vaginal pH of 3.8, l-lactic acid at 1% (w/w) more potently and rapidly inactivated HIVBa-L and HIV-1 transmitter/founder strains compared with 1% (w/w) acetic acid and with acidity alone, all adjusted to pH 3.8. A final concentration of 1% (w/w) l-lactic acid maximally inactivated HIVBa-L in the presence of cervicovaginal secretions and seminal plasma. The anti-HIV activity of l-lactic acid was pH dependent, being abrogated at neutral pH, indicating that its virucidal activity is mediated by protonated lactic acid and not the lactate anion.
l-lactic acid at physiological concentrations demonstrates potent HIV virucidal activity distinct from acidity alone and greater than acetic acid, suggesting a protective role in the sexual transmission of HIV.
PMCID: PMC3743514  PMID: 23657804
vaginal lactobacilli; carboxylic acids; virucidal; female reproductive tract
8.  The NRTIs Lamivudine, Stavudine and Zidovudine Have Reduced HIV-1 Inhibitory Activity in Astrocytes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62196.
HIV-1 establishes infection in astrocytes and macroage-lineage cells of the central nervous system (CNS). Certain antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) can penetrate the CNS, and are therefore often used in neurologically active combined antiretroviral therapy (Neuro-cART) regimens, but their relative activity in the different susceptible CNS cell populations is unknown. Here, we determined the HIV-1 inhibitory activity of CNS-penetrating ARVs in astrocytes and macrophage-lineage cells. Primary human fetal astrocytes (PFA) and the SVG human astrocyte cell line were used as in vitro models for astrocyte infection, and monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) were used as an in vitro model for infection of macrophage-lineage cells. The CNS-penetrating ARVs tested were the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) abacavir (ABC), lamivudine (3TC), stavudine (d4T) and zidovudine (ZDV), the non-NRTIs efavirenz (EFV), etravirine (ETR) and nevirapine (NVP), and the integrase inhibitor raltegravir (RAL). Drug inhibition assays were performed using single-round HIV-1 entry assays with luciferase viruses pseudotyped with HIV-1 YU-2 envelope or vesicular stomatitis virus G protein (VSV-G). All the ARVs tested could effectively inhibit HIV-1 infection in macrophages, with EC90s below concentrations known to be achievable in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). Most of the ARVs had similar potency in astrocytes, however the NRTIs 3TC, d4T and ZDV had insufficient HIV-1 inhibitory activity in astrocytes, with EC90s 12-, 187- and 110-fold greater than achievable CSF concentrations, respectively. Our data suggest that 3TC, d4T and ZDV may not adequately target astrocyte infection in vivo, which has potential implications for their inclusion in Neuro-cART regimens.
PMCID: PMC3628669  PMID: 23614033
9.  Identification of diverse full-length endogenous betaretroviruses in megabats and microbats 
Retrovirology  2013;10:35.
Betaretroviruses infect a wide range of species including primates, rodents, ruminants, and marsupials. They exist in both endogenous and exogenous forms and are implicated in animal diseases such as lung cancer in sheep, and in human disease, with members of the human endogenous retrovirus-K (HERV-K) group of endogenous betaretroviruses (βERVs) associated with human cancers and autoimmune diseases. To improve our understanding of betaretroviruses in an evolutionarily distinct host species, we characterized βERVs present in the genomes and transcriptomes of mega- and microbats, which are an important reservoir of emerging viruses.
A diverse range of full-length βERVs were discovered in mega- and microbat genomes and transcriptomes including the first identified intact endogenous retrovirus in a bat. Our analysis revealed that the genus Betaretrovirus can be divided into eight distinct sub-groups with evidence of cross-species transmission. Betaretroviruses are revealed to be a complex retrovirus group, within which one sub-group has evolved from complex to simple genomic organization through the acquisition of an env gene from the genus Gammaretrovirus. Molecular dating suggests that bats have contended with betaretroviral infections for over 30 million years.
Our study reveals that a diverse range of betaretroviruses have circulated in bats for most of their evolutionary history, and cluster with extant betaretroviruses of divergent mammalian lineages suggesting that their distribution may be largely unrestricted by host species barriers. The presence of βERVs with the ability to transcribe active viral elements in a major animal reservoir for viral pathogens has potential implications for public health.
PMCID: PMC3621094  PMID: 23537098
Retrovirus; Betaretrovirus; Endogenous; Evolution; Bats; Pteropus; Myotis; Rhinolophus
10.  No association between XMRV or related gammaretroviruses in Australian prostate cancer patients 
Virology Journal  2013;10:20.
Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) is a gammaretrovirus reported to be associated with prostate cancer (PC) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). While the association of XMRV with CFS and PC has recently been discredited, no studies have been performed in Australian patients to investigate the association between PC and XMRV or related murine leukemia virus (MLV) in matched PC and normal tissue.
Genomic DNA (gDNA) was purified from matched normal and cancer formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) prostate tissue from 35 Australian PC patients with Gleason scores ranging from 7 – 10. The presence of the ribonuclease L (RNase L) polymorphism R462Q was determined by allele specific PCR. Samples were screened for XMRV and related murine leukemia virus (MLV) variants by qPCR. Contaminating mouse DNA was detected using qPCR targeting mouse intracisternal A particle long terminal repeat DNA.
gDNA was successfully purified from 94% (66/70) of normal and cancer FFPE prostate tissues. RNase L typing revealed 8% were homozygous (QQ), 60% were heterozygous (RQ) and 32% were wild-type (RR) for the RNase L mutation. None of the 66 samples tested were positive for XMRV or related MLV sequences using broad MLV or XMRV specific primers with detection sensitivities of 1 viral copy of MLV/XMRV and XMRV DNA, respectively.
Using highly sensitive qPCR we found no evidence of XMRV or related gammaretroviruses in prostate tissues from 35 Australian PC patients. Our findings are consistent with other studies demonstrating that XMRV is a laboratory contaminant that has no role in the aetiology of PC.
PMCID: PMC3560155  PMID: 23305518
11.  Host-Pathogen Interactions of Retroviruses 
PMCID: PMC3488407  PMID: 23150826
12.  Discovery of Retroviral Homologs in Bats: Implications for the Origin of Mammalian Gammaretroviruses 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(8):4288-4293.
Gammaretroviruses infect a wide range of vertebrate species where they are associated with leukemias, neurological diseases and immunodeficiencies. However, the origin of these infectious agents is unknown. Through a phylogenetic analysis of viral gene sequences, we show that bats harbor an especially diverse set of gammaretroviruses. In particular, phylogenetic analysis places Rhinolophus ferrumequinum retrovirus (RfRV), a new gammaretrovirus identified by de novo analysis of the Rhinolophus ferrumequinum transcriptome, and six other gammaretroviruses from different bat species, as basal to other mammalian gammaretroviruses. An analysis of the similarity in the phylogenetic history between the gammaretroviruses and their bat hosts provided evidence for both host-virus codivergence and cross-species transmission. Taken together, these data provide new insights into the origin of the mammalian gammaretroviruses.
PMCID: PMC3318619  PMID: 22318134
13.  Virucidal Activity of the Dendrimer Microbicide SPL7013 Against HIV-1 
Antiviral research  2011;90(3):195-199.
Topical microbicides for use by women to prevent the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted infections are urgently required. Dendrimers are highly branched nanoparticles being developed as microbicides. SPL7013 is a dendrimer with broad-spectrum activity against HIV type I (HIV-1) and -2 (HIV-2), herpes simplex viruses type-1 (HSV-1) and -2 (HSV-2) and human papillomavirus. SPL7013 [3% (w/w)] has been formulated in a mucoadhesive carbopol gel (VivaGel®) for use as a topical microbicide. Previous studies showed that SPL7013 has similar potency against CXCR4- (X4) and CCR5-using (R5) strains of HIV-1 and that it blocks viral entry. However, the ability of SPL7013 to directly inactivate HIV-1 is unknown. We examined whether SPL7013 demonstrates virucidal activity against X4 (NL4.3, MBC200, CMU02 clade EA and 92UG046 clade D), R5 (Ba-L, NB25 and 92RW016 clade A) and dual-tropic (R5X4; MACS1-spln) HIV-1 using a modified HLA-DR viral capture method and by polyethylene glycol precipitation. Evaluation of virion integrity was determined by ultracentrifugation through a sucrose cushion and detection of viral proteins by Western blot analysis. SPL7013 demonstrated potent virucidal activity against X4 and R5X4 strains, although virucidal activity was less potent for the 92UG046 X4 clade D isolate. Where potent virucidal activity was observed, the 50% virucidal concentrations were similar to the 50% effective concentrations previously reported in drug susceptibility assays, indicating that the main mode of action of SPL7013 is by direct viral inactivation for these strains. In contrast, SPL7013 lacked potent virucidal activity against R5 HIV-1 strains. Evaluation of the virucidal mechanism showed that SPL7013-treated NL4.3, 92UG046 and MACS1-spln virions were intact with no significant decrease in gp120 surface protein with respect to p24 capsid content compared to the corresponding untreated virus. These studies demonstrate that SPL7013 is virucidal against HIV-1 strains that utilize the CXCR4 coreceptor but not viruses tested in this study that solely use CCR5 by a mechanism that is distinct from virion disruption or loss of gp120. In addition, the mode of action by which SPL7013 prevents infection of cells with X4 and R5X4 strains is likely to differ from R5 strains of HIV-1
PMCID: PMC3115201  PMID: 21459115
Dendrimer; microbicide; SPL7013; HIV; virucidal activity
14.  SPL7013 Gel (VivaGel®) Retains Potent HIV-1 and HSV-2 Inhibitory Activity following Vaginal Administration in Humans 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24095.
SPL7013 Gel (VivaGel®) is a microbicide in development for prevention of HIV and HSV. This clinical study assessed retention and duration of antiviral activity following vaginal administration of 3% SPL7013 Gel in healthy women. Participants received 5 single doses of product with ≥5 days between doses. A cervicovaginal fluid (CVF) sample was collected using a SoftCup™ pre-dose, and immediately, or 1, 3, 12 or 24 h post-dose. HIV-1 and HSV-2 antiviral activities of CVF samples were determined in cell culture assays. Antiviral activity in the presence of seminal plasma was also tested. Mass and concentration of SPL7013 in CVF samples was determined. Safety was assessed by reporting of adverse events. Statistical analysis was performed using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test with Bonferroni adjustment; p≤0.003 was significant. Eleven participants completed the study. Inhibition of HIV-1 and HSV-2 by pre-dose CVF samples was negligible. CVF samples obtained immediately after dosing almost completely inhibited (median, interquartile range) HIV-1 [96% (95,97)] and HSV-2 [86% (85,94)], and activity was maintained in all women at 3 h (HIV-1 [96% (95,98), p = 0.9]; HSV-2 [94% (91,97), p = 0.005]). At 24 h, >90% of initial HIV-1 and HSV-2 inhibition was maintained in 6/11 women. SPL7013 was recovered in CVF samples obtained at baseline (46% of 105 mg dose). At 3 and 24 h, 22 mg and 4 mg SPL7013, respectively, were recovered. More than 70% inhibition of HIV-1 and HSV-2 was observed if there was >0.5 mg SPL7013 in CVF samples. High levels of antiviral activity were retained in the presence of seminal plasma. VivaGel was well tolerated with no signs or symptoms of vaginal, vulvar or cervical irritation reported. Potent antiviral activity was observed against HIV-1 and HSV-2 immediately following vaginal administration of VivaGel, with activity maintained for at least 3 h post-dose. The data provide evidence of antiviral activity in a clinical setting, and suggest VivaGel could be administered up to 3 h before coitus.
Trial Registration
The study is registered at under identifier: NCT00740584
PMCID: PMC3174146  PMID: 21935377
15.  Structure Activity Relationship of Dendrimer Microbicides with Dual Action Antiviral Activity 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12309.
Topical microbicides, used by women to prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections are urgently required. Dendrimers are highly branched nanoparticles being developed as microbicides. However, the anti-HIV and HSV structure-activity relationship of dendrimers comprising benzyhydryl amide cores and lysine branches, and a comprehensive analysis of their broad-spectrum anti-HIV activity and mechanism of action have not been published.
Methods and Findings
Dendrimers with optimized activity against HIV-1 and HSV-2 were identified with respect to the number of lysine branches (generations) and surface groups. Antiviral activity was determined in cell culture assays. Time-of-addition assays were performed to determine dendrimer mechanism of action. In vivo toxicity and HSV-2 inhibitory activity were evaluated in the mouse HSV-2 susceptibility model. Surface groups imparting the most potent inhibitory activity against HIV-1 and HSV-2 were naphthalene disulfonic acid (DNAA) and 3,5-disulfobenzoic acid exhibiting the greatest anionic charge and hydrophobicity of the seven surface groups tested. Their anti-HIV-1 activity did not appreciably increase beyond a second-generation dendrimer while dendrimers larger than two generations were required for potent anti-HSV-2 activity. Second (SPL7115) and fourth generation (SPL7013) DNAA dendrimers demonstrated broad-spectrum anti-HIV activity. However, SPL7013 was more active against HSV and blocking HIV-1 envelope mediated cell-to-cell fusion. SPL7013 and SPL7115 inhibited viral entry with similar potency against CXCR4-(X4) and CCR5-using (R5) HIV-1 strains. SPL7013 was not toxic and provided at least 12 h protection against HSV-2 in the mouse vagina.
Dendrimers can be engineered with optimized potency against HIV and HSV representing a unique platform for the controlled synthesis of chemically defined multivalent agents as viral entry inhibitors. SPL7013 is formulated as VivaGel® and is currently in clinical development to provide protection against HIV and HSV. SPL7013 could also be combined with other microbicides.
PMCID: PMC2925893  PMID: 20808791
16.  N348I in Reverse Transcriptase Provides a Genetic Pathway for HIV-1 to Select TAMs and Mutations Antagonistic to TAMs 
AIDS (London, England)  2010;24(5):659-667.
Several nonnucleoside (e.g. Y181C) and nucleoside (e.g. L74V, M184V) resistance mutations in HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) are antagonistic toward thymidine analog mutations (TAMs) that confer zidovudine (AZT) resistance. The N348I mutation in the connection domain of RT also confers AZT resistance however the mechanisms involved are different from TAMs. In this study, we examined whether N348I compensates for the antagonism of the TAM K70R by Y181C, L74V and M184V.
Design and Methods
The AZT-monophosphate (AZT-MP) and ribonuclease H (RNase H) activities of recombinant purified HIV-1 RT containing combinations of K70R, N348I and Y181C, L74V or M184V were assessed using standard biochemical and antiviral assays.
As expected, the introduction of the Y181C, L74V or M184V mutations into K70R HIV-1 RT significantly diminished the ATP-mediated AZT-MP excision activity of the enzyme. However, the N348I mutation compensated for this antagonism on RNA/DNA template/primers by significantly decreasing the frequency of secondary RNase H cleavages that reduce the overall efficiency of the excision reaction.
The acquisition of N348I in HIV-1 RT - which can occur early in therapy, oftentimes before TAMs - may provide a simple genetic pathway that allows the virus to select both TAMs and mutations that are antagonistic toward TAMs.
PMCID: PMC2874746  PMID: 20160634
HIV-1; reverse transcriptase; resistance; N348I; zidovudine; antagonism
17.  N348I in HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase Decreases Susceptibility to Tenofovir and Etravirine in Combination with Other Resistance Mutations 
AIDS (London, England)  2010;24(2):317-319.
We previously demonstrated that N348I in HIV-1 reverse transcriptase confers zidovudine and nevirapine resistance. However, both of these inhibitors are currently infrequently used in developed countries and the impact of N348I on newer RT inhibitors, such as tenofovir and etravirine, is unknown. In this study, we demonstrate that N348I alone confers no resistance to tenofovir and low-level resistance to etravirine. However, N348I significantly decreases tenofovir susceptibility when combined with thymidine analogue mutations and etravirine susceptibility when combined with Y181C.
PMCID: PMC2874243  PMID: 20010074
HIV; N348I; reverse transcriptase; thymidine analogue mutations; etravirine; tenofovir
18.  Enhancement of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Replication Is Not Intrinsic to All Polyanion-Based Microbicides ▿  
Polyanion-based microbicides have been developed to prevent the sexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Recent data suggest that polyanions have the capacity to enhance HIV type 1 (HIV-1) replication at threshold antiviral concentrations. Evaluation of the microbicide candidates SPL7013 and PRO 2000 revealed no specific enhancement of two CCR5 HIV-1 strains in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells compared to enfuvirtide (Fuzeon). The enhancement effect is likely to be a function of the assay conditions and is not an intrinsic property of these polyanions.
PMCID: PMC2715623  PMID: 19528284
19.  The Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Nonnucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor Resistance Mutation I132M Confers Hypersensitivity to Nucleoside Analogs▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(8):3826-3833.
We previously identified a rare mutation in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase (RT), I132M, which confers high-level resistance to the nonnucleoside RT inhibitors (NNRTIs) nevirapine and delavirdine. In this study, we have further characterized the role of this mutation in viral replication capacity and in resistance to other RT inhibitors. Surprisingly, our data show that I132M confers marked hypersusceptibility to the nucleoside analogs lamivudine (3TC) and tenofovir at both the virus and enzyme levels. Subunit-selective mutagenesis studies revealed that the mutation in the p51 subunit of RT was responsible for the increased sensitivity to the drugs, and transient kinetic analyses showed that this hypersusceptibility was due to I132M decreasing the enzyme's affinity for the natural dCTP substrate but increasing its affinity for 3TC-triphosphate. Furthermore, the replication capacity of HIV-1 containing I132M is severely impaired. This decrease in viral replication capacity could be partially or completely compensated for by the A62V or L214I mutation, respectively. Taken together, these results help to explain the infrequent selection of I132M in patients for whom NNRTI regimens are failing and furthermore demonstrate that a single mutation outside of the polymerase active site and inside of the p51 subunit of RT can significantly influence nucleotide selectivity.
PMCID: PMC2663283  PMID: 19193782
20.  Mechanisms of inhibition of HIV replication by nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors 
Virus research  2008;134(1-2):147-156.
The nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors (NNRTIs) are a therapeutic class of compounds that are routinely used, in combination with other antiretroviral drugs, to treat HIV-1 infection. NNRTIs primarily block HIV-1 replication by preventing RT from completing reverse transcription of the viral single-stranded RNA genome into DNA. However, some NNRTIs, such as efavirenz, have been shown to inhibit the late stages of HIV-1 replication by interfering with HIV-1 Gag-Pol polyprotein processing, while others, such as the pyrimidinediones, have been shown to inhibit both HIV-1 RT-mediated reverse transcription and HIV-1/HIV-2 viral entry. Accordingly, in this review we describe the multiple mechanisms by which NNRTIs inhibit HIV-1 reverse transcription (and in some cases HIV-2 reverse transcription) and other key steps involved in HIV-1/HIV-2 replication.
PMCID: PMC2745993  PMID: 18372072
HIV; reverse transcriptase; nonnucleoside; Gag-Pol; viral entry
21.  N348I in the Connection Domain of HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase Confers Zidovudine and Nevirapine Resistance 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(12):e335.
The catalytically active 66-kDa subunit of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase (RT) consists of DNA polymerase, connection, and ribonuclease H (RNase H) domains. Almost all known RT inhibitor resistance mutations identified to date map to the polymerase domain of the enzyme. However, the connection and RNase H domains are not routinely analysed in clinical samples and none of the genotyping assays available for patient management sequence the entire RT coding region. The British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (the Centre) genotypes clinical isolates up to codon 400 in RT, and our retrospective statistical analyses of the Centre's database have identified an N348I mutation in the RT connection domain in treatment-experienced individuals. The objective of this multidisciplinary study was to establish the in vivo relevance of this mutation and its role in drug resistance.
Methods and Findings
The prevalence of N348I in clinical isolates, the time taken for it to emerge under selective drug pressure, and its association with changes in viral load, specific drug treatment, and known drug resistance mutations was analysed from genotypes, viral loads, and treatment histories from the Centre's database. N348I increased in prevalence from below 1% in 368 treatment-naïve individuals to 12.1% in 1,009 treatment-experienced patients (p = 7.7 × 10−12). N348I appeared early in therapy and was highly associated with thymidine analogue mutations (TAMs) M41L and T215Y/F (p < 0.001), the lamivudine resistance mutations M184V/I (p < 0.001), and non-nucleoside RTI (NNRTI) resistance mutations K103N and Y181C/I (p < 0.001). The association with TAMs and NNRTI resistance mutations was consistent with the selection of N348I in patients treated with regimens that included both zidovudine and nevirapine (odds ratio 2.62, 95% confidence interval 1.43–4.81). The appearance of N348I was associated with a significant increase in viral load (p < 0.001), which was as large as the viral load increases observed for any of the TAMs. However, this analysis did not account for the simultaneous selection of other RT or protease inhibitor resistance mutations on viral load. To delineate the role of this mutation in RT inhibitor resistance, N348I was introduced into HIV-1 molecular clones containing different genetic backbones. N348I decreased zidovudine susceptibility 2- to 4-fold in the context of wild-type HIV-1 or when combined with TAMs. N348I also decreased susceptibility to nevirapine (7.4-fold) and efavirenz (2.5-fold) and significantly potentiated resistance to these drugs when combined with K103N. Biochemical analyses of recombinant RT containing N348I provide supporting evidence for the role of this mutation in zidovudine and NNRTI resistance and give some insight into the molecular mechanism of resistance.
This study provides the first in vivo evidence that treatment with RT inhibitors can select a mutation (i.e., N348I) outside the polymerase domain of the HIV-1 RT that confers dual-class resistance. Its emergence, which can happen early during therapy, may significantly impact on a patient's response to antiretroviral therapies containing zidovudine and nevirapine. This study also provides compelling evidence for investigating the role of other mutations in the connection and RNase H domains in virological failure.
Analyzing HIV sequences from a Canadian cohort, Gilda Tachedjian and colleagues identify a common mutation in a little-studied domain of reverse transcriptase that confers resistance to two drug classes.
Editors' Summary
In the 1980s, infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), was a death sentence. Although the first antiretroviral drugs (compounds that block HIV's life cycle) were developed quickly, single antiretrovirals only transiently suppress HIV infection. HIV rapidly accumulates random changes (mutations) in its genetic material, some of which make it drug resistant. Nowadays, there are many different antiretrovirals. Some inhibit the viral protease, an enzyme used to assemble new viruses. Others block reverse transcriptase (RT), which makes replicates of the genes of the virus. Nucleoside/nucleotide RT inhibitors (NRTIs; for example, zidovudine—also called AZT—and lamivudine) and non-nucleoside RT inhibitors (NNRTIs; for example, nevirapine and efavirenz) interfere with the activity of RT by binding to different sites in its so-called “DNA polymerase domain,” the part of the enzyme that constructs copies of the viral genes. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), which was introduced in the mid 1990s, combines several antiretrovirals (usually a protease inhibitor and two NRTIs or an NNRTI and two NRTIs) so that the replication of any virus that develops resistance to one drug is inhibited by the other drugs in the mix. When treated with HAART, HIV infection is usually a chronic, stable condition rather than a fatal disease.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, HIV that is resistant to drugs still develops in some patients. To improve the prevention and management of drug resistance, a better understanding of the mutations that cause resistance is needed. Resistance to RT inhibitors usually involves mutations in the DNA polymerase domain that reduce the efficacy of NRTIs (including thymidine analogue mutations—also known as TAMs—and lamivudine-resistance mutations) and NNRTIs. Blood tests that detect these resistance mutations (genotype tests) have been used for several years to guide individualized selection of HIV drugs. Recently, however, mutations outside the DNA polymerase domain have also been implicated in resistance to RT inhibitors. In this study, the researchers have used data and samples collected since the mid 1990s by Canada's British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS to investigate the clinical relevance of a mutation called N348I. This mutation changes an asparagine (a type of amino acid) to an isoleucine in a region of RT known as the connection domain. The researchers have also investigated how this mutation causes resistance to RT inhibitors in laboratory tests.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed the first two-thirds of the RT gene in viruses isolated from a large number of the Centre's patients. Virus carrying the N348I mutation was present in less than one in 100 patients whose HIV infection had never been treated, but in more than one in 10 treatment-experienced patients. The mutation appeared early in therapy, often in viruses that had TAMs, a lamivudine-resistance mutation called M184V/I, and/or NNRTI resistance mutations. Patients treated with zidovudine and nevirapine were 2.6 times more likely to have the N348I mutation than patients not treated with these drugs. Furthermore, the appearance of the N348I mutation often coincided with an increase in viral load, although other mutations that appeared at a similar time could have contributed to this increase. When the researchers introduced the N348I mutation into HIV growing in the laboratory, they found that it decreased the susceptibility of the virus to zidovudine and to NNRTIs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the treatment of patients with RT inhibitors can select a drug-resistant HIV variant that has a mutation outside the enzyme's DNA polymerase domain. Because this N348I mutation, which is commonly selected in vivo and has also been seen in other studies, confers resistance to two classes of RT inhibitors and can emerge early during therapy, it could have a large impact on patient responses to antiviral regimens that contain zidovudine and nevirapine. Although these findings do not show that the N348I mutation alone causes treatment failure, they may have implications for genotypic and phenotypic resistance testing, which is often used to guide treatment decisions. At present, genotype tests for resistance to RT inhibitors look for mutations only in the DNA polymerase domain of RT. This study is the first to demonstrate that it might be worth looking for the N348I mutation (and for other mutations outside the DNA polymerase domain) to improve the ability of genotypic and phenotypic resistance tests to predict treatment outcomes.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including links to fact sheets (in English, French, and Spanish) about antiretrovirals, and chapters explaining antiretroviral resistance testing
NAM, a UK registered charity, provides information about all aspects of HIV and AIDS, including fact sheets on types of HIV drugs, drug resistance, and resistance tests (in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Russian)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on HIV/AIDS and on treatment (in English and Spanish)
AIDSinfo, a service of the US Department of Health and Human Services provides information for patients on HIV and its treatment
PMCID: PMC2100143  PMID: 18052601
22.  Targeting Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Assembly, Maturation and Budding 
Drug Target Insights  2007;2:159-182.
The targets for licensed drugs used for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) are confined to the viral reverse transcriptase (RT), protease (PR), and the gp41 transmembrane protein (TM). While currently approved drugs are effective in controlling HIV-1 infections, new drug targets and agents are needed due to the eventual emergence of drug resistant strains and drug toxicity. Our increased understanding of the virus life-cycle and how the virus interacts with the host cell has unveiled novel mechanisms for blocking HIV-1 replication. This review focuses on inhibitors that target the late stages of virus replication including the synthesis and trafficking of the viral polyproteins, viral assembly, maturation and budding. Novel approaches to blocking the oligomerization of viral enzymes and the interactions between viral proteins and host cell factors, including their feasibility as drug targets, are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3155237  PMID: 21901072
HIV-1; antiretroviral drugs; drug targets; assembly; maturation; budding; protease dimerization; reverse transcriptase dimerization
23.  Potent Nonnucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors Target HIV-1 Gag-Pol 
PLoS Pathogens  2006;2(11):e119.
Nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) target HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) by binding to a pocket in RT that is close to, but distinct, from the DNA polymerase active site and prevent the synthesis of viral cDNA. NNRTIs, in particular, those that are potent inhibitors of RT polymerase activity, can also act as chemical enhancers of the enzyme's inter-subunit interactions. However, the consequences of this chemical enhancement effect on HIV-1 replication are not understood. Here, we show that the potent NNRTIs efavirenz, TMC120, and TMC125, but not nevirapine or delavirdine, inhibit the late stages of HIV-1 replication. These potent NNRTIs enhanced the intracellular processing of Gag and Gag-Pol polyproteins, and this was associated with a decrease in viral particle production from HIV-1-transfected cells. The increased polyprotein processing is consistent with premature activation of the HIV-1 protease by NNRTI-enhanced Gag-Pol multimerization through the embedded RT sequence. These findings support the view that Gag-Pol multimerization is an important step in viral assembly and demonstrate that regulation of Gag-Pol/Gag-Pol interactions is a novel target for small molecule inhibitors of HIV-1 production. Furthermore, these drugs can serve as useful probes to further understand processes involved in HIV-1 particle assembly and maturation.
HIV-1 encodes reverse transcriptase (RT), an enzyme that is essential for virus replication. Nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) are allosteric inhibitors of the HIV-1 RT. In HIV-1-infected cells NNRTIs block the RT-catalyzed synthesis of a double-stranded DNA copy of the viral genomic RNA, which is an early step in the virus life cycle. Potent NNRTIs have the novel feature of promoting the interaction between the two RT subunits. However, the importance of this effect on the inhibition of HIV-1 replication has not been defined. In this study, the authors show that potent NNRTIs block an additional step in the virus life cycle. NNRTIs increase the intracellular processing of viral polyproteins called Gag and Gag-Pol that express the HIV-1 structural proteins and viral enzymes. Enhanced polyprotein processing is associated with a decrease in viral particles released from NNRTI-treated cells. NNRTI enhanced polyprotein processing is likely due to the drug binding to RT, expressed as part of the Gag-Pol polyprotein and promoting the interaction between separate Gag-Pol polyproteins. This leads to premature activation of the Gag-Pol embedded HIV-1 protease, resulting in a decrease in full-length viral polyproteins available for assembly and budding from the host cell membrane. This study provides proof-of-concept that small molecules can modulate the interactions between Gag-Pol polyproteins and suggests a new target for the development of HIV-1 antiviral drugs.
PMCID: PMC1635531  PMID: 17096588
24.  Mutations That Abrogate Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Reverse Transcriptase Dimerization Affect Maturation of the Reverse Transcriptase Heterodimer 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(16):10247-10257.
The specific impact of mutations that abrogate human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase (RT) dimerization on virus replication is not known, as mutations shown previously to inhibit RT dimerization also impact Gag-Pol stability, resulting in pleiotropic effects on HIV-1 replication. We have previously characterized mutations at codon 401 in the HIV-1 RT tryptophan repeat motif that abrogate RT dimerization in vitro, leading to a loss in polymerase activity. The introduction of the RT dimerization-inhibiting mutations W401L and W401A into HIV-1 resulted in the formation of noninfectious viruses with reduced levels of both virion-associated and intracellular RT activity compared to the wild-type virus and the W401F mutant, which does not inhibit RT dimerization in vitro. Steady-state levels of the p66 and p51 RT subunits in viral lysates of the W401L and W401A mutants were reduced, but no significant decrease in Gag-Pol was observed compared to the wild type. In contrast, there was a decrease in processing of p66 to p51 in cell lysates for the dimerization-defective mutants compared to the wild type. The treatment of transfected cells with indinavir suggested that the HIV-1 protease contributed to the degradation of virion-associated RT subunits. These data demonstrate that mutations near the RT dimer interface that abrogate RT dimerization in vitro result in the production of replication-impaired viruses without detectable effects on Gag-Pol stability or virion incorporation. The inhibition of RT activity is most likely due to a defect in RT maturation, suggesting that RT dimerization represents a valid drug target for chemotherapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC1182633  PMID: 16051818
25.  Analysis of the Contribution of Reverse Transcriptase and Integrase Proteins to Retroviral RNA Dimer Conformation 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(10):6338-6348.
All retroviruses contain two copies of genomic RNA that are linked noncovalently. The dimeric RNA of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) undergoes rearrangement during virion maturation, whereby the dimeric RNA genome assumes a more stable conformation. Previously, we have shown that the packaging of the HIV-1 polymerase (Pol) proteins reverse transcriptase (RT) and integrase (IN) is essential for the generation of the mature RNA dimer conformation. Analysis of HIV-1 mutants that are defective in processing of Pol showed that these mutant virions contained altered dimeric RNA conformation, indicating that the mature RNA dimer conformation in HIV-1 requires the correct proteolytic processing of Pol. The HIV-1 Pol proteins are multimeric in their mature enzymatically active forms; RT forms a heterodimer, and IN appears to form a homotetramer. Using RT and IN multimerization defective mutants, we have found that dimeric RNA from these mutant virions has the same stability and conformation as wild-type RNA dimers, showing that the mature enzymatically active RT and IN proteins are dispensable for the generation of mature RNA dimer conformation. This also indicated that formation of the mature RNA dimer structure occurs prior to RT or IN maturation. We have also investigated the requirement of Pol for RNA dimerization in both Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) and Moloney murine leukemia virus (MoMuLV) and found that in contrast to HIV-1, Pol is dispensable for RNA dimer maturation in M-PMV and MoMuLV, demonstrating that the requirement of Pol in retroviral RNA dimer maturation is not conserved among all retroviruses.
PMCID: PMC1091692  PMID: 15858017

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