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1.  CD4:CD8 lymphocyte ratio as a quantitative measure of immunologic health in HIV-1 infection: findings from an African cohort with prospective data 
In individuals with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, CD4:CD8 lymphocyte ratio is often recognized as a quantitative outcome that reflects the critical role of both CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells in HIV-1 pathogenesis or disease progression. Our work aimed to first establish the dynamics and clinical relevance of CD4:CD8 ratio in a cohort of native Africans and then to examine its association with viral and host factors, including: (i) length of infection, (ii) demographics, (iii) HIV-1 viral load (VL), (iv) change in CD4+ T-lymphocyte count (CD4 slope), (v) HIV-1 subtype, and (vi) host genetics, especially human leukocyte antigen (HLA) variants. Data from 499 HIV-1 seroconverters with frequent (monthly to quarterly) follow-up revealed that CD4:CD8 ratio was stable in the first 3 years of infection, with a modest correlation with VL and CD4 slope. A relatively normal CD4:CD8 ratio (>1.0) in early infection was associated with a substantial delay in disease progression to severe immunodeficiency (<350 CD4 cells/μl), regardless of other correlates of HIV-1 pathogenesis (adjusted hazards ratio (HR) = 0.43, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.29-0.63, P < 0.0001). Low VL (<10,000 copies/ml) and HLA-A*74:01 were the main predictors of CD4:CD8 ratio >1.0, but HLA variants (e.g., HLA-B*57 and HLA-B*81) previously associated with VL and/or CD4 trajectories in eastern and southern Africans had no obvious impact on CD4:CD8 ratio. Collectively, these findings suggest that CD4:CD8 ratio is a robust measure of immunologic health with both clinical and epidemiological implications.
PMCID: PMC4486831  PMID: 26191056
Africa; CD4:CD8 ratio; HIV-1; subtype; HLA; statistical models; viral load
2.  SNP screening of central MHC identified HLA-DMB as a candidate susceptibility gene for HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma 
Genes and immunity  2014;15(6):424-429.
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region on chromosome 6p21.3 is suspected to host susceptibility loci for HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma (HIV-KS). A nested case-control study in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study was designed to conduct fine genetic association mapping across central MHC. Individuals co-infected with HIV-1 and HHV-8 who later developed KS were defined as cases (n=354) and were matched 1:1 with co-infected KS-free controls.
We report data for new independent MHC class II and III susceptibility loci. In particular, class II HLA-DMB emerged as a strong candidate, with the intronic variant rs6902982 A>G associated with a 4-fold increase of risk (OR= 4.09; 95% CI: 1.90–8.80; p= 0.0003). A striking multiplicative effect on the estimated risk was associated with further carriage of two non-synonymous variants, rs1800453 A>G (Asp697Gly) and rs4148880 A>G (Ile393Val), in the linked TAP1 gene (OR=10.5; 95% CI: 2.54–43.6; p=0.0012). The class III susceptibility variant is moderately associated with HIV-KS and lies within a 120 Kb-long haplotype (OR=1.52; 95% CI: 1.01–2.28; p=0.047) formed by rs7029 A>G (GPANK1 3’UTR), rs1065356 G>A (LY6G6C), rs3749953 A>G (MSH5-SAPCD1 readthrough) and rs707926 G>A (VARS). Our data suggest that antigen processing by MHC class II molecules is a target pathway in the pathogenesis of HIV-KS.
PMCID: PMC4174341  PMID: 25008864
3.  Dynamics of Viremia in Primary HIV-1 infection in Africans: Insights from Analyses of Host and Viral Correlates 
Virology  2013;449:254-262.
In HIV-1 infection, plasma viral load (VL) has dual implications for pathogenesis and public health. Based on well-known patterns of HIV-1 evolution and immune escape, we hypothesized that VL is an evolving quantitative trait that depends heavily on duration of infection (DOI), demographic features, human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genotypes and viral characteristics. Prospective data from 421 African seroconverters with at least four eligible visits did show relatively steady VL beyond 3 months of untreated infection, but host and viral factors independently associated with cross-sectional and longitudinal VL often varied by analytical approaches and sliding time windows. Specifically, the effects of age, HLA-B*53 and infecting HIV-1 subtypes (A1, C and others) on VL were either sporadic or highly sensitive to time windows. These observations were strengthened by the addition of 111 seroconverters with 2–3 eligible VL results, suggesting that DOI should be a critical parameter in epidemiological and clinical studies.
PMCID: PMC3931417  PMID: 24418560
Africa; HIV-1; subtype; HLA; statistical models; viral load
4.  A candidate gene approach for virally-induced cancer with application to HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma 
Like other members of the γ-herpesvirus family, human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8), the etiologic agent of classic and HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma (HIV-KS) acquired and evolved several human genes with key immune modulatory and cellular growth control functions. The encoded viral homologs substitute for their human counterparts but escape cellular regulation, leading to uncontrolled cell proliferation. We postulated that DNA variants in the human homologs of viral genes that potentially alter the expression or the binding of the encoded factors controlling the antiviral response may facilitate viral interference. To test whether cellular homologs are candidate susceptibility genes, we evaluated the association of DNA variants in 92 immune-related genes including 7 cellular homologs with the risk for HIV-KS in a matched case and control study nested in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study. Low- and high-risk gene-by-gene interactions were estimated by multifactor dimensionality reduction and used as predictors in conditional logistic models. Among the most significant gene interactions at risk (OR=2.84–3.92; Bonferroni-adjusted p= 9.9×10−3−2.6×10−4), three comprised human homologs of two latently expressed viral genes, cyclin D1 (CCND1) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), in conjunction with angiogenic genes (VEGF, EDN-1 and EDNRB). At lower significance thresholds (adjusted p < 0.05), human homologs related to apoptosis (CFLAR) and chemotaxis (CCL2) emerged as candidates. This “proof of concept” study identified human homologs involved in the regulation of type I interferon-induced signaling, cell cycle and apoptosis potentially as important determinants of HIV-KS
PMCID: PMC4007164  PMID: 23818101
Kaposi’s sarcoma; Immunodeficiency; Herpes Virus 8; Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction; Polymorphism; Genetic association
5.  Host genetics and immune control of HIV-1 infection: Fine mapping for the extended human MHC region in an African cohort 
Genes and immunity  2014;15(5):275-281.
Multiple MHC loci encoding human leukocyte antigens (HLA) have allelic variants unequivocally associated with differential immune control of HIV-1 infection. Fine mapping based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the extended MHC (xMHC) region is expected to reveal causal or novel factors and to justify a search for functional mechanisms. We have tested the utility of a custom fine-mapping platform (the ImmunoChip) for 172 HIV-1 seroconverters (SCs) and 449 seroprevalent individuals (SPs) from Lusaka, Zambia, with a focus on more than 6,400 informative xMHC SNPs. When conditioned on HLA and non-genetic factors previously associated with HIV-1 viral load (VL) in the study cohort, penalized approaches (HyperLasso models) identified an intergenic SNP (rs3094626 between RPP21 and HLA-E) and an intronic SNP (rs3134931 in NOTCH4) as novel correlates of early set-point VL in SCs. The minor allele of rs2857114 (downstream from HLA-DOB) was an unfavorable factor in SPs. Joint models based on demographic features, HLA alleles and the newly identified SNP variants could explain 29% and 15% of VL variance in SCs and SPs, respectively. These findings and bioinformatics strongly suggest that both classic and non-classic MHC genes deserve further investigation, especially in Africans with relatively short haplotype blocks.
PMCID: PMC4111776  PMID: 24784026
HIV-1; HLA; human MHC; SNP; viral load
6.  Disparities In Lung Transplantation Before And After Introduction Of The Lung Allocation Score 
In May 2005 the lung allocation score (LAS) became the primary method for determining allocation of lungs for organ transplantation for those at least 12 years of age in the United States. During the pre-LAS period, black patients were more likely than white patients to become too sick or die while awaiting transplant. The association between gender and lung transplant outcomes has not been widely studied.
Black and white patients ≥18 years of age registered on the UNOS lung transplantation waiting list from January 1, 2000-May 3, 2005 (pre-LAS, n=8765) and May 4, 2005-September 13, 2010 (LAS, n=8806) were included; logistic regression analyses were based on smaller cohorts derived from patients listed in the first 2 years of each era (pre-LAS, n=2350, and LAS, n=2446) to allow for follow-up time. Lung transplantation was the primary outcome measure. Multivariable analyses were performed within each time period to determine the odds of dying or receiving a lung transplant within three years of listing.
In the pre-LAS era, black patients were more likely than white to become too sick for transplantation or die within three years of wait list registration (43.8% vs. 30.8%; odds ratio [OR] 1.84; p<0.001). Race was not associated with death or becoming too sick while listed for transplantation in the LAS era (14.0% vs. 13.3%; OR 0.93; p=0.74). Black patients were less likely to undergo transplantation in the pre-LAS era (56.3% vs. 69.2%; OR 0.54; p<0.001) but not in the LAS era (86.0% vs. 86.7%; OR 1.07; p=0.74). Women were more likely than men to die or become too sick for transplantation within three years of listing in the LAS era (16.1% vs. 11.3%; OR 1.58; p<0.001), as compared to the pre-LAS era (33.4% vs. 30.7%; OR 1.19; p=0.08).
Racial disparities in lung transplantation have decreased with the implementation of LAS as the method of organ allocation; however, gender disparities may have actually increased in the LAS era.
PMCID: PMC3714222  PMID: 23582477
Lung Transplant; Disparities; LAS; Racial; Gender
7.  Structure of tumor necrosis factor-alpha haploblocks in European populations 
Immunogenetics  2013;65(7):543-552.
DNA variants in the tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF) and linked lymphotoxin-α genes, and specific alleles of the highly polymorphic human leukocyte antigen B (HLA-B) gene have been implicated in a plethora of immune and infectious diseases. However, the tight linkage disequilibrium characterizing the central region of the human major histocompatibility complex (MHC) containing these gene loci has made difficult the unequivocal interpretation of genetic association data.
To alleviate these difficulties and facilitate the design of more focused follow-up studies, we investigated the structure and distribution of HLA-B-specific MHC haplotypes reconstructed in a European population from unphased genotypes at a set of 25 single nucleotide polymorphism sites spanning a 66 kilobase-long region across TNF.
Consistent with the published data, we found limited genetic diversity across the so-called TNF block, with the emergence of seven common MHC haplotypes, termed TNF block super-haplotypes. We also found that the ancestral haplotype 8.1 shares a TNF block haplotype with HLA-B*4402. HLA-B*5701, a known protective allele in HIV-1 pathogenesis, occurred in a unique TNF block haplotype.
PMCID: PMC3985396  PMID: 23579626
8.  Host genetics and viral load in primary HIV-1 infection: clear evidence for gene by sex interactions 
Human Genetics  2014;133(9):1187-1197.
Research in the past two decades has generated unequivocal evidence that host genetic variations substantially account for the heterogeneous outcomes following human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection. In particular, genes encoding human leukocyte antigens (HLA) have various alleles, haplotypes, or specific motifs that can dictate the set-point (a relatively steady state) of plasma viral load (VL), although rapid viral evolution driven by innate and acquired immune responses can obscure the long-term relationships between HLA genotypes and HIV-1-related outcomes. In our analyses of VL data from 521 recent HIV-1 seroconverters enrolled from eastern and southern Africa, HLA-A*03:01 was strongly and persistently associated with low VL in women (frequency = 11.3 %, P < 0.0001) but not in men (frequency = 7.7 %, P = 0.66). This novel sex by HLA interaction (P = 0.003, q = 0.090) did not extend to other frequent HLA class I alleles (n = 34), although HLA-C*18:01 also showed a weak association with low VL in women only (frequency = 9.3 %, P = 0.042, q > 0.50). In a reduced multivariable model, age, sex, geography (clinical sites), previously identified HLA factors (HLA-B*18, B*45, B*53, and B*57), and the interaction term for female sex and HLA-A*03:01 collectively explained 17.0 % of the overall variance in geometric mean VL over a 3-year follow-up period (P < 0.0001). Multiple sensitivity analyses of longitudinal and cross-sectional VL data yielded consistent results. These findings can serve as a proof of principle that the gap of “missing heritability” in quantitative genetics can be partially bridged by a systematic evaluation of sex-specific associations.
PMCID: PMC4127002  PMID: 24969460
9.  Allelic Dependent Expression of an Activating Fc receptor on B cells Enhances Humoral Immune Responses 
Science translational medicine  2013;5(216):216ra175.
B cells are pivotal regulators of acquired immune responses and recent work in both experimental murine models and humans has demonstrated that subtle changes in the regulation of B cell function can significantly alter immunological responses. The balance of negative and positive signals in maintaining an appropriate B cell activation threshold is critical in B lymphocyte immune tolerance and autoreactivity. FcγRIIb (CD32B), the only recognized Fcγ receptor on B cells, provides IgG-mediated negative modulation through a tyrosine-based inhibition motif which down-regulates B cell receptor initiated signaling. These properties make FcγRIIb a promising target for antibody-based therapy. Here we report the discovery of allele-dependent expression of the activating FcγRIIc on B cells. Identical to FcγRIIb in the extracellular domain, FcγRIIc has a tyrosine-based activation motif in its cytoplasmic domain. In both human B cells and in B cells from mice transgenic for human FcγRIIc, FcγRIIc expression counterbalances the negative feedback of FcγRIIb and enhances humoral responses to immunization in mice and to BioThrax® vaccination in a human Anthrax vaccine trial. Moreover, the FCGR2C-ORF allele is associated with the risk of development of autoimmunity in humans. FcγRIIc expression on B cells challenges the prevailing paradigm of uni-directional negative feedback by IgG immune complexes via the inhibitory FcγRIIb, is a previously unrecognized determinant in human antibody/autoantibody responses, and opens the opportunity for more precise personalized use of B cell targeted antibody-based therapy.
PMCID: PMC3982386  PMID: 24353158
10.  KIR2DS4 Promotes HIV-1 Pathogenesis: New Evidence from Analyses of Immunogenetic Data and Natural Killer Cell Function 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99353.
KIR2DS4 gene variants encode full-length and truncated protein products, with only the former serving as membrane-bound receptors to activate natural killer (NK) cells. We have previously shown that full-length KIR2DS4 was associated with relatively high viral load and accelerated heterosexual HIV-1 transmission. Our objective here was to provide confirmatory data and to offer new insights about the potential mechanisms.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Mixed models for repeated (longitudinal) outcome measurements on 207 HIV-1 seropositive American youth revealed an association of full-length KIR2DS4 with relatively high viral load and low CD4+ T-cell count (p<0.01 for both). Depending on KIR2DS4 expression (presence or absence) on cell surface, NK cells from 43 individuals with untreated, chronic HIV-1 infection often differed in functional properties, including degranulation and secretion of IFN-γ and MIP-1β. In particular, polyfunctional NK cells were enriched in the KIR2DS4-positive subset.
Full-length KIR2DS4 promotes HIV-1 pathogenesis during chronic infection, probably through the maintenance of an excessively pro-inflammatory state.
PMCID: PMC4047121  PMID: 24901871
11.  Cytokine signaling pathway polymorphisms and AIDS-related non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study 
AIDS (London, England)  2010;24(7):1025-1033.
Cytokine stimulation of B-cell proliferation may be an important etiologic mechanism for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)-related non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The Epstein-Barr virus may be a co-factor, particularly for primary central nervous system (CNS) tumors, which are uniformly EBV-positive in the setting of AIDS. Thus, we examined associations of genetic variation in IL10 and related cytokine signaling molecules (IL10RA, CXCL12, IL13, IL4, IL4R, CCL5 and BCL6) with AIDS-related NHL risk and evaluated differences between primary CNS and systemic tumors. We compared 160 Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) participants with incident lymphomas, of which 90 followed another AIDS diagnosis, to HIV-1-seropositive controls matched on duration of lymphoma-free survival post-HIV-1 infection (N=160) or post-AIDS diagnosis (N=90). We fit conditional logistic regression models to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95 percent confidence intervals (95%CIs). Carriage of at least one copy of the T allele for the IL10 rs1800871 (as compared to no copies) was associated with decreased AIDS-NHL risk specific to lymphomas arising from the CNS (CC vs. CT/TT: OR=0.3; 95%CI: 0.1, 0.7) but not systemically (CC vs. CT/TT: OR=1.0; 95%CI: 0.5, 1.9) (Pheterogeneity=0.03). Carriage of two copies of the “low IL10” haplotype rs1800896_A/rs1800871_T/rs1800872_A was associated with decreased lymphoma risk that varied by number of copies (Ptrend=0.02). None of the ORs for the other studied polymorphisms was significantly different from 1.0. Excessive IL10 response to HIV-1 infection may be associated with increased risk of NHL, particularly in the CNS. IL10 dysregulation may be an important etiologic pathway for EBV-related lymphomagenesis.
PMCID: PMC3950937  PMID: 20299965
cytokine; SNPs; AIDS-related lymphoma
12.  Human Leukocyte Antigens and Cellular Immune Responses to Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(7):2584-2591.
Interindividual variations in vaccine-induced immune responses are in part due to host genetic polymorphisms in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) and other gene families. This study examined associations between HLA genotypes, haplotypes, and homozygosity and protective antigen (PA)-specific cellular immune responses in healthy subjects following immunization with Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA). While limited associations were observed between individual HLA alleles or haplotypes and variable lymphocyte proliferative (LP) responses to AVA, analyses of homozygosity supported the hypothesis of a “heterozygote advantage.” Individuals who were homozygous for any HLA locus demonstrated significantly lower PA-specific LP than subjects who were heterozygous at all eight loci (median stimulation indices [SI], 1.84 versus 2.95, P = 0.009). Similarly, we found that class I (HLA-A) and class II (HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1) homozygosity was significantly associated with an overall decrease in LP compared with heterozygosity at those three loci. Specifically, individuals who were homozygous at these loci had significantly lower PA-specific LP than subjects heterozygous for HLA-A (median SI, 1.48 versus 2.13, P = 0.005), HLA-DQA1 (median SI, 1.75 versus 2.11, P = 0.007), and HLA-DQB1 (median SI, 1.48 versus 2.13, P = 0.002) loci, respectively. Finally, homozygosity at an increasing number (≥4) of HLA loci was significantly correlated with a reduction in LP response (P < 0.001) in a dose-dependent manner. Additional studies are needed to reproduce these findings and determine whether HLA-heterozygous individuals generate stronger cellular immune response to other virulence factors (Bacillus anthracis LF and EF) than HLA-homozygous subjects.
PMCID: PMC3697592  PMID: 23649091
13.  HLA-B*57 versus HLA-B*81 in HIV-1 Infection: Slow and Steady Wins the Race? 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(7):4043-4051.
Two human leukocyte antigen (HLA) variants, HLA-B*57 and -B*81, are consistently known as favorable host factors in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected Africans and African-Americans. In our analyses of prospective data from 538 recent HIV-1 seroconverters and cross-sectional data from 292 subjects with unknown duration of infection, HLA-B*57 (mostly B*57:03) and -B*81 (exclusively B*81:01) had mostly discordant associations with virologic and immunologic manifestations before antiretroviral therapy. Specifically, relatively low viral load (VL) in HLA-B*57-positive subjects (P ≤ 0.03 in various models) did not translate to early advantage in CD4+ T-cell (CD4) counts (P ≥ 0.37). In contrast, individuals with HLA-B*81 showed little deviation from the normal set point VL (P > 0.18) while maintaining high CD4 count during early and chronic infection (P = 0.01). These observations suggest that discordance between VL and CD4 count can occur in the presence of certain HLA alleles and that effective control of HIV-1 viremia is not always a prerequisite for favorable prognosis (delayed immunodeficiency). Of note, steady CD4 count associated with HLA-B*81 in HIV-1-infected Africans may depend on the country of origin, as observations differed slightly between subgroups enrolled in southern Africa (Zambia) and eastern Africa (Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda).
PMCID: PMC3624227  PMID: 23365442
Human immunology  2011;72(4):312-318.
Populations of African ancestry continue to account for a disproportionate burden of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) epidemic in the US. We investigated the effects of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I markers in association with virologic and immunologic control of HIV-1 infection among 338 HIV-1 subtype B-infected African Americans in two cohorts: REACH (Reaching for Excellence in Adolescent Care and Health) and HERS (HIV Epidemiology Research Study). One-year treatment-free interval measurements of HIV-1 RNA viral loads and CD4+ T-cells were examined both separately and combined to represent three categories of HIV-1 disease control (76 “controllers,” 169 “intermediates,” and 93 “non-controllers”). Certain previously or newly implicated HLA class I alleles (A*32, A*36, A*74, B*14, B*1510, B*3501, B*45, B*53, B*57, Cw*04, Cw*08, Cw*12, and Cw*18) were associated with one or more of the endpoints in univariate analyses. After multivariable adjustments for other genetic and non-genetic risk factors of HIV-1 progression, the subset of alleles more strongly or consistently associated with HIV-1 disease control included A*32, A*74, B*14, B*45, B*53, B*57, and Cw*08. Carriage of infrequent HLA-B but not HLA-A alleles was associated with more favorable disease outcomes. Certain HLA class I associations with control of HIV-1 infection span the boundaries of race and viral subtype; while others appear confined within one or the other of those boundaries.
PMCID: PMC3778654  PMID: 21262311
HLA class I; Allele frequency; HIV-1 control; African American
15.  A Genome-wide Association Study of Host Genetic Determinants of the Antibody Response to Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed 
Vaccine  2012;30(32):4778-4784.
Several lines of evidence have supported a host genetic contribution to vaccine response, but genome-wide assessments for specific determinants have been sparse. Here we describe a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of protective antigen-specific antibody (AbPA) responses among 726 European-Americans who received Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) as part of a clinical trial. After quality control, 736,996 SNPs were tested for association with the AbPA response to 3 or 4 AVA vaccinations given over a 6-month period. No SNP achieved the threshold of genome-wide significance (p=5x10−8), but suggestive associations (p<1x10−5) were observed for SNPs in or near the class II region of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), in the promoter region of SPSB1, and adjacent to MEX3C. Multivariable regression modeling suggested that much of the association signal within the MHC corresponded to previously identified HLA DR-DQ haplotypes involving component HLA-DRB1 alleles of *15:01, *01:01, or *01:02. We estimated the proportion of additive genetic variance explained by common SNP variation for the AbPA response after the 6 month vaccination. This analysis indicated a significant, albeit imprecisely estimated, contribution of variation tagged by common polymorphisms (p=0.032). Future studies will be required to replicate these findings in European Americans and to further elucidate the host genetic factors underlying variable immune response to AVA.
PMCID: PMC3387748  PMID: 22658931
Anthrax vaccines; Bacillus anthracis; bacterial vaccines; vaccination; Genome-wide association study
16.  Cumulative Impact of Host and Viral Factors on HIV-1 Viral-Load Control during Early Infection 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(2):708-715.
In HIV-1 infection, the early set-point viral load strongly predicts both viral transmission and disease progression. The factors responsible for the wide spectrum of set-point viral loads are complex and likely reflect an interplay between the transmitted virus and genetically defined factors in both the transmitting source partner and the seroconverter. Indeed, analysis of 195 transmission pairs from Lusaka, Zambia, revealed that the viral loads in transmitting source partners contributed only ∼2% of the variance in early set-point viral loads of seroconverters (P = 0.046 by univariable analysis). In multivariable models, early set-point viral loads in seroconverting partners were a complex function of (i) the viral load in the source partner, (ii) the gender of the seroconverter, (iii) specific HLA class I alleles in the newly infected partner, and (iv) sharing of HLA-I alleles between partners in a transmission pair. Each of these factors significantly and independently contributed to the set-point viral load in the newly infected partner, accounting for up to 37% of the variance observed and suggesting that many factors operate in concert to define the early virological phenotype in HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3554094  PMID: 23115285
17.  HLA-B Signal Peptide Polymorphism Influences the Rate of HIV-1 Acquisition but Not Viral Load 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;205(12):1797-1805.
Human leukocyte antigen alleles influence the immune response to HIV-1. Signal peptides cleaved from those alleles bind to HLA-E and mediate natural killer cell function. Signal peptides of HLA-A and HLA-C proteins carry methionine (Met) at anchor position 2 (P2); those of HLA-B carry Met or threonine (Thr). Different P2 residues alter HLA-E binding to its cognate receptors and may impact HIV-1 acquisition. Among Zambian couples (N = 566) serodiscordant for HIV-1, P2-Met accelerated acquisition in the HIV-1-negative partner (relative hazard [RH], 1.79). Among seroconverting Zambian (n = 240) and Rwandan (n = 64) partners, P2-Met also accelerated acquisition (RH, 1.47 and RH, 1.83 respectively). HLA-B alleles displaying the reportedly protective Bw4 epitope carry P2-Thr. Bw4/P2-Thr and Bw6/P2-Thr showed similar protective effects compared with Bw6/P2-Met. Neither motif was associated with viral load. The influence of HLA-B alleles on HIV/AIDS may derive from multiple motifs in and beyond the mature proteins.
PMCID: PMC3571229  PMID: 22492862
18.  Role of Activating FcγR Gene Polymorphisms in Kawasaki Disease Susceptibility and Intravenous Immunoglobulin Response 
A functional polymorphism in the inhibitory IgG-Fc receptor FcγRIIB influences intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) response in Kawasaki Disease (KD) a vasculitis preferentially affecting the coronary arteries in children. We tested the hypothesis that the polymorphisms in the activating receptors (Fcγ RIIA, Fcγ RIIIA and Fcγ RIIIB) also influence susceptibility, IVIG treatment response, and coronary artery disease (CAD) in KD patients.
Methods and Results
We genotyped polymorphisms in the activating FcγRIIA, FcγRIIIA and FcγRIIIB genes using pyrosequencing in 443 KD patients, including 266 trios and 150 single parent-child pairs, in northwest US and genetically determined race with 155 ancestry information markers. We used the FBAT program to test for transmission disequilibrium and further generated pseudo-sibling controls for comparisons to the cases. The FcγRIIA-131H variant showed an association with KD (p = 0.001) with ORadditive = 1.51 [1.16–1.96], p = 0.002) for the primary combined population, which persisted in both Caucasian (p = .04) and Asian (p = .01) subgroups and is consistent with the recent genome-wide association study. We also identified over-transmission of FcγRIIIB-NA1 among IVIG non-responders (p = 0.0002), and specifically to Caucasian IVIG non-responders (p = 0.007). Odds ratios for overall and Caucasian non-responders were respectively 3.67 [1.75–7.66], p = 0.0006 and 3.60 [1.34–9.70], p = 0.01. Excess NA1 transmission also occurred to KD with CAD (ORadditive = 2.13 [1.11–4.0], p = 0.02).
A common variation in FcγRIIA is associated with increased KD susceptibility. The FcγRIIIB-NA1, which confers higher affinity for IgG compared to NA2, is a determining factor for treatment response. These activating FcγRs play an important role in KD pathogenesis and mechanism of IVIG anti-inflammatory.
PMCID: PMC3444514  PMID: 22565545
coronary disease; pediatrics; Kawasaki disease; IVIG treatment response; FcγR
19.  Genomic Copy Number Variants: Evidence for Association with Antibody Response to Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64813.
Anthrax and its etiologic agent remain a biological threat. Anthrax vaccine is highly effective, but vaccine-induced IgG antibody responses vary widely following required doses of vaccinations. Such variation can be related to genetic factors, especially genomic copy number variants (CNVs) that are known to be enriched among genes with immunologic function. We have tested this hypothesis in two study populations from a clinical trial of anthrax vaccination.
We performed CNV-based genome-wide association analyses separately on 794 European Americans and 200 African-Americans. Antibodies to protective antigen were measured at week 8 (early response) and week 30 (peak response) using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. We used DNA microarray data (Affymetrix 6.0) and two CNV detection algorithms, hidden markov model (PennCNV) and circular binary segmentation (GeneSpring) to determine CNVs in all individuals. Multivariable regression analyses were used to identify CNV-specific associations after adjusting for relevant non-genetic covariates.
Within the 22 autosomal chromosomes, 2,943 non-overlapping CNV regions were detected by both algorithms. Genomic insertions containing HLA-DRB5, DRB1 and DQA1/DRA genes in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region (chromosome 6p21.3) were moderately associated with elevated early antibody response (β = 0.14, p = 1.78×10−3) among European Americans, and the strongest association was observed between peak antibody response and a segmental insertion on chromosome 1, containing NBPF4, NBPF5, STXMP3, CLCC1, and GPSM2 genes (β = 1.66, p = 6.06×10−5). For African-Americans, segmental deletions spanning PRR20, PCDH17 and PCH68 genes on chromosome 13 were associated with elevated early antibody production (β = 0.18, p = 4.47×10−5). Population-specific findings aside, one genomic insertion on chromosome 17 (containing NSF, ARL17 and LRRC37A genes) was associated with elevated peak antibody response in both populations.
Multiple CNV regions, including the one consisting of MHC genes that is consistent with earlier research, can be important to humoral immune responses to anthrax vaccine adsorbed.
PMCID: PMC3669407  PMID: 23741398
20.  Genetic Variations and Heterosexual HIV-1 Infection: Analysis of Clustered Genes Encoding CC-motif Chemokine Ligands 
Genes and immunity  2011;13(2):202-205.
Several CC-motif chemokine ligands (CCLs) can block HIV-1 binding sites on CC-motif chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5) and inhibit viral entry. We studied single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes encoding three CCR5 ligands [CCL3 (MIP-1α), CCL4 (MIP-1β), and CCL5 (RANTES)] along with an adjacent gene encoding a CCR2 ligand [CCL2 (MCP-1)] to identify candidate markers for HIV-1 infection and pathogenesis. Analyses of 567 HIV-1 serodiscordant Zambian couples revealed that rs5029410C (in CCL3 intron 2) was associated with lower viral load (VL) in seroconverters, adjusted for gender and age (regression β=−0.57 log10, P=4×10−6). In addition, rs34171309A in CCL3 exon 3 was associated with increased risk of HIV-1 acquisition in exposed seronegatives (hazard ratio=1.52, P=0.006 when adjusted for donor VL and genital ulcer/inflammation). The CCL3 exon 3 SNP, encoding a conservative Glu-to-Asp substitution, and five neighboring SNPs in tight linkage disequilibrium all showed similar associations with HIV-1 acquisition. How these multiple CCL3 SNPs may alter the occurrence or course of HIV-1 infection remains to be determined.
PMCID: PMC3559129  PMID: 21975429
HIV-1 transmission; CCL2; CCL3; CCL4; CCL5; SNP
21.  Role of Transmitted Gag CTL Polymorphisms in Defining Replicative Capacity and Early HIV-1 Pathogenesis 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(11):e1003041.
Initial studies of 88 transmission pairs in the Zambia Emory HIV Research Project cohort demonstrated that the number of transmitted HLA-B associated polymorphisms in Gag, but not Nef, was negatively correlated to set point viral load (VL) in the newly infected partners. These results suggested that accumulation of CTL escape mutations in Gag might attenuate viral replication and provide a clinical benefit during early stages of infection. Using a novel approach, we have cloned gag sequences isolated from the earliest seroconversion plasma sample from the acutely infected recipient of 149 epidemiologically linked Zambian transmission pairs into a primary isolate, subtype C proviral vector, MJ4. We determined the replicative capacity (RC) of these Gag-MJ4 chimeras by infecting the GXR25 cell line and quantifying virion production in supernatants via a radiolabeled reverse transcriptase assay. We observed a statistically significant positive correlation between RC conferred by the transmitted Gag sequence and set point VL in newly infected individuals (p = 0.02). Furthermore, the RC of Gag-MJ4 chimeras also correlated with the VL of chronically infected donors near the estimated date of infection (p = 0.01), demonstrating that virus replication contributes to VL in both acute and chronic infection. These studies also allowed for the elucidation of novel sites in Gag associated with changes in RC, where rare mutations had the greatest effect on fitness. Although we observed both advantageous and deleterious rare mutations, the latter could point to vulnerable targets in the HIV-1 genome. Importantly, RC correlated significantly (p = 0.029) with the rate of CD4+ T cell decline over the first 3 years of infection in a manner that is partially independent of VL, suggesting that the replication capacity of HIV-1 during the earliest stages of infection is a determinant of pathogenesis beyond what might be expected based on set point VL alone.
Author Summary
In the majority of HIV-1 cases, a single virus establishes infection. However, mutations in the viral genome accumulate over time in order to avoid recognition by the host immune response. Certain mutations in the main structural protein, Gag, driven by cytotoxic T lymphocytes are detrimental to viral replication, and we showed previously that, upon transmission, viruses with higher numbers of escape mutations in Gag were associated with lower early set point viral loads. We hypothesized that this could be attributed to attenuation of the transmitted virus. Here, we have cloned the gag gene from 149 newly infected individuals from linked transmission pairs into a clade C proviral vector and determined the replicative capacity in vitro. We found that the replicative capacity conferred by the transmitted Gag correlated with set point viral loads in newly infected individuals, as well as with the viral load of the transmitting partner, and we identified previously unrecognized residues associated with increasing and decreasing replicative capacity. Importantly, we demonstrate that transmitted viruses with high replicative capacity cause more rapid CD4+ decline over the first three years, independent of viral load. This suggests that the trajectory of pathogenesis may be affected very early in infection, before adaptive immunity can respond.
PMCID: PMC3510241  PMID: 23209412
22.  B cell-stimulatory cytokines and markers of immune activation are elevated several years prior to the diagnosis of systemic AIDS-associated non-Hodgkin B cell lymphoma 
The risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is greatly increased in HIV infection. The aim of this study was to determine if elevated serum levels of molecules associated with B cell activation precede the diagnosis of AIDS-associated NHL.
Serum levels of B cell activation-associated molecules, interleukin-6 (IL6), interleukin-10 (IL10), soluble CD23 (sCD23), soluble CD27 (sCD27), soluble CD30 (sCD30), C-reactive protein (CRP), and IgE were determined in 179 NHL cases and HIV+ controls in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, collected at up to three time points per subject, 0–5 years prior to AIDS-NHL diagnosis.
Serum IL6, IL10, CRP, sCD23, sCD27, and sCD30 levels were all significantly elevated in the AIDS-NHL group, when compared to HIV+ controls or to AIDS controls, after adjusting for CD4 T cell number. Elevated serum levels of B cell activation-associated molecules were seen to be associated with the development of systemic (non-CNS) NHL, but not with the development of primary CNS lymphoma.
Levels of certain B cell stimulatory cytokines and molecules associated with immune activation are elevated for several years preceding the diagnosis of systemic AIDS-NHL. This observation is consistent with the hypothesis that chronic B cell activation contributes to the development of these hematologic malignancies.
Marked differences in serum levels of several molecules are seen for several years pre-diagnosis in those who eventually develop AIDS-NHL. Some of these molecules may serve as candidate biomarkers and provide valuable information to better define the etiology of NHL.
PMCID: PMC3132317  PMID: 21527584
lymphoma; B cell; cytokines; AIDS; immune activation
23.  The Role of HLA DR-DQ Haplotypes in Variable Antibody Responses to Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed 
Genes and immunity  2011;12(6):457-465.
Host genetic variation, particularly within the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) loci, reportedly mediates heterogeneity in immune response to certain vaccines; however, no large study of genetic determinants of anthrax vaccine response has been described. We searched for associations between the IgG antibody to protective antigen (AbPA) response to Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) in humans and polymorphisms at HLA class I (HLA-A, -B, and -C) and class II (HLA-DRB1, -DQA1, -DQB1, -DPB1) loci. The study included 794 European-Americans and 200 African-Americans participating in a 43-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of AVA ( identifier NCT00119067). Among European-Americans, genes from tightly linked HLA-DRB1-DQA1-DQB1 haplotypes displayed significant overall associations with longitudinal variation in AbPA levels at 4, 8, 26, and 30 weeks from baseline in response to vaccination with 3 or 4 doses of AVA (global p=6.53×10−4). In particular, carriage of the DRB1-DQA1-DQB1 haplotypes *1501-*0102-*0602 (p=1.17×10−5), *0101-*0101-*0501 (p=0.009), and *0102-*0101-*0501 (p=0.006) was associated with significantlylower AbPA levels. In carriers of two copies of these haplotypes, lower AbPA levels persisted following subsequent vaccinations. No significant associations were observed amongst African-Americans or for any HLA class I allele/haplotype. Further studies will be required to replicate these findings and to explore the role of host genetic variation outside of the HLA region.
PMCID: PMC3165112  PMID: 21368772
Anthrax vaccines; Bacillus anthracis; Bacterial vaccines; Vaccination; HLA Antigens
24.  Human Leukocyte Antigen Variants B*44 and B*57 Are Consistently Favorable during Two Distinct Phases of Primary HIV-1 Infection in Sub-Saharan Africans with Several Viral Subtypes▿† 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(17):8894-8902.
As part of an ongoing study of early human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection in sub-Saharan African countries, we have identified 134 seroconverters (SCs) with distinct acute-phase (peak) and early chronic-phase (set-point) viremias. SCs with class I human leukocyte antigen (HLA) variants B*44 and B*57 had much lower peak viral loads (VLs) than SCs without these variants (adjusted linear regression beta values of −1.08 ± 0.26 log10 [mean ± standard error] and −0.83 ± 0.27 log10, respectively; P < 0.005 for both), after accounting for several nongenetic factors, including gender, age at estimated date of infection, duration of infection, and country of origin. These findings were confirmed by alternative models in which major viral subtypes (A1, C, and others) in the same SCs replaced country of origin as a covariate (P ≤ 0.03). Both B*44 and B*57 were also highly favorable (P ≤ 0.03) in analyses of set-point VLs. Moreover, B*44 was associated with relatively high CD4+ T-cell counts during early chronic infection (P = 0.02). Thus, at least two common HLA-B variants showed strong influences on acute-phase as well as early chronic-phase VL, regardless of the infecting viral subtype. If confirmed, the identification of B*44 as another favorable marker in primary HIV-1 infection should help dissect mechanisms of early immune protection against HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3165830  PMID: 21715491
25.  Impact of a Functional KIR2DS4 Allele on Heterosexual HIV-1 Transmission among Discordant Zambian Couples 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;203(4):487-495.
Killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) and their HLA ligands interact to regulate natural killer (NK) cell function. KIR gene content and allelic variations are reported to influence human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 infection and pathogenesis. We investigated the impact of KIR genes on heterosexual HIV-1 transmission among 566 discordant couples from Lusaka, Zambia. KIR2DS4*001, the only allele of KIR2DS4 known to encode a functional activating receptor, was associated with relatively high viral load for HIV-1 in index (HIV-1 seroprevalent) partners (β [standard error (SE)], .17 [.8] log10; P = .04) and with accelerated transmission of HIV-1 to cohabiting seronegative partners (relative hazard [RH], 2.00; P = .004). The latter association was independent of the direction of transmission (male-to-female or female-to-male), genital ulcers, and carriage of the putative ligand (HLA-Cw*04). No KIR-gene variant in the initially seronegative partners was associated with HIV-1 acquisition or early viral load following seroconversion. Further analysis of NK cell function should clarify the role of KIR2DS4*001 in HIV-1 transmission.
PMCID: PMC3071217  PMID: 21216870

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