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1.  A Regulatory Polymorphism in HAVCR2 Modulates Susceptibility to HIV-1 Infection 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106442.
The HAVCR2 gene encodes TIM-3, an immunoglobulin superfamily member expressed by exhausted CD8+ T cells during chronic viral infection. We investigated whether genetic variation at HAVCR2 modulates the susceptibility to HIV-1 acquisition; specifically we focused on a 3′ UTR variant (rs4704846, A/G) that represents a natural selection target. We genotyped rs4704846 in three independent cohorts of HIV-1 exposed seronegative (HESN) individuals with different geographic origin (Italy and Spain) and distinct route of exposure to HIV-1 (sexual and injection drug use). Matched HIV-1 positive subjects and healthy controls were also analyzed. In all case-control cohorts the minor G allele at rs4704846 was more common in HIV-1 infected individuals than in HESN, with healthy controls showing intermediate frequency. Results from the three association analyses were combined through a random effect meta-analysis, which revealed no heterogeneity among samples (Cochrane's Q, p value =  0.89, I2 =  0) and yielded a p value of 6.8 ×10−4. The minor G allele at rs4704846 was found to increase HAVCR2 expression after in vitro HIV-1 infection. Thus, a positively selected polymorphism in the 3′ UTR, which modulates HAVCR2 expression, is associated with the susceptibility to HIV-1 infection. These data warrant further investigation into the role of TIM-3 in the prevention and treatment of HIV-1/AIDS.
PMCID: PMC4152274  PMID: 25180498
2.  IFNL4 ss469415590 Variant Shows Similar Performance to rs12979860 as Predictor of Response to Treatment against Hepatitis C Virus Genotype 1 or 4 in Caucasians 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95515.
The rs12979860 variant, linked to IL28B gene, predicts sustained viral response (SVR) to pegylated-interferon/ribavirin (pegIFN/RBV) therapy in Hepatitis C Virus genotype 1 or 4 (HCV-1/4)-infected patients. Recently, a functional variant, ss469415590, in linkage disequilibrium (LD) with rs12979860, has been discovered. Our objective was to assess the value of ss469415590 to predict SVR to pegIFN/RBV in Caucasian HCV-1/4-infected individuals and to compare its performance with that of rs12979860.
272 Caucasian HCV-1/4-infected patients who completed a course of pegIFN/RBV were genotyped for both rs12979860 and ss469415590 markers. Logistic regression models including factors with univariate association with SVR and each genetic marker were elaborated. The area under the receiver operating-characteristic curve (AUROC) was calculated for each model and both were compared.
Both markers were in LD (r2 = 0.82). For rs12979860, 66 (64.0%) CC versus 56 (33.1%) T allele carriers achieved SVR (Adjusted OR = 4.156, 95%CI = 2.388–7.232, p = 4.647×10−7). For ss469415590, 66 (66.0%) TT/TT versus 56 (32.5%) –G allele carriers (Adjusted OR = 4.783, 95%CI = 2.714–8.428, p = 6.153×10−8) achieved SVR. The AUROC of the model including rs12979860 was 0.742 (95%CI = 0.672–0.813) and of that based on ss469415590 was 0.756 (95%CI = 0.687–0.826) (p = 0.780).
The ss469415590 variant shows an equivalent performance to predict SVR to pegIFN/RBV than the rs2979860 in Caucasian HCV-1/4-infected patients.
PMCID: PMC3991683  PMID: 24748394
3.  Short Communication: Atazanavir-Based Therapy Is Associated with Higher Hepatitis C Viral Load in HIV Type 1-Infected Subjects with Untreated Hepatitis C 
We assessed the relationship between atazanavir (ATV)-based antiretroviral treatment (ART) and plasma hepatitis C virus (HCV) viral load in a population of HIV/HCV-coinfected patients. HIV/HCV-coinfected patients who received ART based on a protease inhibitor (PI) or nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) were included. Patients were stratified by ART drug [ATV/rtv, lopinavir (LPV/rtv), efavirenz (EFV), nevirapine (NVP), and other PIs], HCV genotype (1/4 and 2/3), and IL28B genotype (CC and non-CC). The Kruskal–Wallis test and chi-squared test were used to compare continuous and categorical variables, respectively. Multivariate analysis consisted of a stepwise linear regression analysis. Six hundred and forty-nine HIV/HCV-coinfected patients were included. HCV genotype 1/4 patients who received ATV had higher HCV RNA levels [6.57 (5.9–6.8) log IU/ml] than those who received LPV [6.1 (5.5–6.5) log IU/ml], EFV [6.1 (5.6–6.4) log IU/ml], NVP [5.8 (5.5–5.9) log IU/ml], or other PIs [6.1 (5.7–6.4) log IU/ml] (p=0.014). This association held for the IL28B genotype (CC versus non-CC). The association was not found in patients carrying HCV genotypes 2/3. The linear regression model identified the IL28B genotype and ATV use as independent factors associated with HCV RNA levels. ATV-based therapy may be associated with a higher HCV RNA viral load in HIV/HCV-coinfected patients.
PMCID: PMC3552167  PMID: 22966845
4.  High Transcript Levels of Vitamin D Receptor Are Correlated with Higher mRNA Expression of Human Beta Defensins and IL-10 in Mucosa of HIV-1-Exposed Seronegative Individuals 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82717.
Vitamin D (VitD) is an endogenous immunomodulator that could protect from HIV-1 infection reducing immune activation and inducing the expression of anti-HIV-1 peptides. To establish a correlation between VitD and natural resistance to HIV-1 infection, a case-control study using blood and mucosa samples of 58 HIV-1-exposed but seronegative (HESN) individuals, 43 HIV-1 seropositives (SPs) and 59 non-exposed healthy controls (HCs) was carried out. The VitD concentration in plasma was determined by ELISA, and mRNA relative units (RU) of VDR, IL-10, TGF-β, TNF-α and IL-1β in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), oral and genital mucosa was quantified by qRT-PCR. mRNA levels of human beta-defensin (HBD) -2 and -3 were previously reported and used for correlations. Significantly higher levels of VitD were found in plasma as well as higher mRNA RU of VDR in PBMCs, and in genital mucosa from HESN compared to HCs. In addition, higher mRNA RU of TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-10, and lower mRNA RU of TGF-β were found in PBMC from HESNs compared to HCs. We also observed higher IL-10 mRNA RU in genital mucosa of HESNs compared to HCs, and the mRNA levels of TNF-α in oral and genital mucosa of SPs were higher compared to HESNs. Furthermore, positive correlations between VDR and IL-10 mRNA RU in PBMCs and genital mucosa of HESNs were found. Finally, HBD-2 and HBD-3 mRNA RU were positively correlated with VDR mRNA expression in oral mucosa from HESNs. These results suggest that high levels of VitD and its receptor are associated with natural resistance to HIV-1 infection. Up-regulation of the anti-inflammatory IL-10, and the induction of anti-HIV-1 defensins in mucosa might be part of the mechanisms involved in this association. However, further studies are required to define causal associations.
PMCID: PMC3857805  PMID: 24349345
5.  Natural Killer KIR3DS1 Is Closely Associated with HCV Viral Clearance and Sustained Virological Response in HIV/HCV Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61992.
To evaluate the influence of the presence of the killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) 3DS1 on HCV treatment response in HIV/HCV genotype 1 co-infected patients
HIV/HCV co-infected patients were included. KIR3DS1, their specific HLA-B ligands and IL28B gene were genotyped. Reductions of plasma HCV RNA levels between baseline and week 1, week 2 and week 4 were analyzed for IL28B genotype and KIR3DS1 (HLA Bw4 or Bw6). Rapid and sustained virological response (RVR and SVR) rates were also analyzed.
Sixty HIV/HCV genotype 1 co-infected patients were included. Patients with KIR3DS1 and Bw4 had higher rates of HCV viral decline than those who were not carriers of KIR3DS1 (week1: p = 0.01; week2: p = 0.038; week 4: p = 0.03). Patients carrying KIR3DS1/Bw4 had higher rates of RVR and SVR than those who did not carry KIR3DS1 (RVR: 46.15% versus 17.02%, p = 0.012; SVR: 63.6% versus 13 26.5%, p = 0.031). With respect to patients carrying the IL28B-CC genotype, those with KIR3DS1/Bw4 had greater rates of HCV viral clearance (week1: p<0.001; week2: p = 0.01; week 4: p = 0.02), RVR (p = 0.015) and SVR (p = 0.029) than those not carrying KIR3DS1.
Our results show that the KIR3DS1 genotype has a positive effect on HCV viral clearance during the first weeks of Peg-IFN/RBV treatment in HCV/HCV co-infected patients bearing genotype 1, and higher RVR and SVR rates.
PMCID: PMC3629002  PMID: 23613999
6.  Differences in HCV Viral Decline between Low and Standard-Dose Pegylated-Interferon-Alpha-2a with Ribavirin in HIV/HCV Genotype 3 Patients 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48959.
The aim of the study was to analyze the different impact of standard and low-dose Peg-IFN-α2a/RBV therapies on HCV viral decline in HIV/HCV genotype 3 co-infected patients during the first weeks of treatment.
Plasma HCV viral decline was analyzed between baseline and weeks 1, 2 and 4 in two groups of treatment-naïve HCV genotype 3 patients with HIV co-infection. The Standard Dose Group (SDG) included patients who received Peg-IFN at 180 µg/per week with a weight-adjusted dose of ribavirin; Low-Dose Group (LDG) patients received Peg-IFN at 135 µg/per week with 800 mg/day ribavirin. The effect of IL28B genotype on HCV viral decline was evaluated in both groups. HCV viral decline was analyzed using a multivariate linear regression model.
One hundred and six patients were included: 48 patients in the SDG and 58 in the LDG. HCV viral decline for patients in the LDG was less than for those in the SDG (week 1∶1.72±0.74 log10 IU/mL versus 1.78±0.67 log10 IU/mL, p = 0.827; week 2∶2.3±0.89 log10 IU/mL versus 3.01±1.02 log10 IU/mL, p = 0.013; week 4∶3.52±1.2 log10 IU/mL versus 4.09±1.1 log10 IU/mL, p = 0.005). The linear regression model identified the Peg-IFN/RBV dose as an independent factor for HCV viral decline at week 4.
Our results showed that HCV viral decline was less for patients in the low-dose group compared to those receiving the standard dose. Until a randomized clinical trial is conducted, clinicians should be cautious about using lower doses of Peg-IFN/RBV in HIV/HCV genotype 3 co-infected patients.
PMCID: PMC3493612  PMID: 23145040
7.  The CXCL12γ Chemokine Displays Unprecedented Structural and Functional Properties that Make It a Paradigm of Chemoattractant Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2543.
The CXCL12γ chemokine arises by alternative splicing from Cxcl12, an essential gene during development. This protein binds CXCR4 and displays an exceptional degree of conservation (99%) in mammals. CXCL12γ is formed by a protein core shared by all CXCL12 isoforms, extended by a highly cationic carboxy-terminal (C-ter) domain that encompass four overlapped BBXB heparan sulfate (HS)-binding motifs. We hypothesize that this unusual domain could critically determine the biological properties of CXCL12γ through its interaction to, and regulation by extracellular glycosaminoglycans (GAG) and HS in particular. By both RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry, we mapped the localization of CXCL12γ both in mouse and human tissues, where it showed discrete differential expression. As an unprecedented feature among chemokines, the secreted CXCL12γ strongly interacted with cell membrane GAG, thus remaining mostly adsorbed on the plasmatic membrane upon secretion. Affinity chromatography and surface plasmon resonance allowed us to determine for CXCL12γ one of the higher affinity for HS (Kd = 0.9 nM) ever reported for a protein. This property relies in the presence of four canonical HS-binding sites located at the C-ter domain but requires the collaboration of a HS-binding site located in the core of the protein. Interestingly, and despite reduced agonist potency on CXCR4, the sustained binding of CXCL12γ to HS enabled it to promote in vivo intraperitoneal leukocyte accumulation and angiogenesis in matrigel plugs with much higher efficiency than CXCL12α. In good agreement, mutant CXCL12γ chemokines selectively devoid of HS-binding capacity failed to promote in vivo significant cell recruitment. We conclude that CXCL12γ features unique structural and functional properties among chemokines which rely on the presence of a distinctive C-ter domain. The unsurpassed capacity to bind to HS on the extracellular matrix would make CXCL12γ the paradigm of haptotactic proteins, which regulate essential homeostatic functions by promoting directional migration and selective tissue homing of cells.
PMCID: PMC2481281  PMID: 18648536
8.  Induction of the chemokine stromal-derived factor-1 following DNA damage improves human stem cell function 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2000;106(11):1331-1339.
The chemokine stromal-derived factor-1 (SDF-1) controls many aspects of stem cell function. Details of its regulation and sites of production are currently unknown. We report that in the bone marrow, SDF-1 is produced mainly by immature osteoblasts and endothelial cells. Conditioning with DNA-damaging agents (ionizing irradiation, cyclophosphamide, and 5-fluorouracil) caused an increase in SDF-1 expression and in CXCR4-dependent homing and repopulation by human stem cells transplanted into NOD/SCID mice. Our findings suggest that immature osteoblasts and endothelial cells control stem cell homing, retention, and repopulation by secreting SDF-1, which also participates in host defense responses to DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC381461  PMID: 11104786

Results 1-8 (8)