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1.  Mitochondrial DNA variation and virologic and immunological HIV outcomes in African Americans 
AIDS (London, England)  2014;28(13):1871-1878.
To evaluate the impact of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups on virologic and immunological outcomes of HIV infection.
HAART-naive African American adolescent participants to the Reaching for Excellence in Adolescent Care and Health study.
The mtDNA haplogroups were inferred from sequenced mtDNA hypervariable regions HV1 and HV2 and their predictive value on HIV outcomes were evaluated in linear mixed models, controlled for human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-B27, HLA-B57 and HLA-B35-Px alleles and other covariates.
We report data showing that the mtDNA L2 lineage, a group composed of L2a, L2b and L2e mtDNA haplogroups in the studied population, is significantly associated (beta=−0.08; Bonferroni-adjusted P=0.004) with decline of CD4+ T cells (median loss of 8 ± 1 cells per month) in HAART-naive HIV-infected individuals of African American descent (n=133). No significant association (P<0.05) with set-point viral load was observed with any of the tested mtDNA haplogroups. The present data concur with previous findings in the AIDS Clinical Trials Group study 384, implicating the L2 lineage with slower CD4+ T-cell recovery after antiretroviral therapy in African Americans.
Whereas the L2 lineage showed an association with unfavorable immunological outcomes of HIV infection, its phylogenetic divergence from J and U5a, two lineages associated with accelerated HIV progression in European Americans, raises the possibility that interactions with common nucleus-encoded variants drive HIV progression. Disentangling the effects of mitochondrial and nuclear gene variants on the outcomes of HIV infection is an important step to be taken toward a better understanding of HIV/AIDS pathogenesis and pharmacogenomics.
PMCID: PMC5004594  PMID: 24932613
AIDS; CD4+ cell count; HIV; HLA; mitochondrial haplogroup; viral load
2.  A Complex Inoculant of N2-Fixing, P- and K-Solubilizing Bacteria from a Purple Soil Improves the Growth of Kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis) Plantlets 
Limited information is available if plant growth promoting bacteria (PGPB) can promote the growth of fruit crops through improvements in soil fertility. This study aimed to evaluate the capacity of PGPB, identified by phenotypic and 16S rRNA sequencing from a vegetable purple soil in Chongqing, China, to increase soil nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) availability and growth of kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis). In doing so, three out of 17 bacterial isolates with a high capacity of N2-fixation (Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, XD-N-3), P-solubilization (B. pumilus, XD-P-1) or K-solubilization (B. circulans, XD-K-2) were mixed as a complex bacterial inoculant. A pot experiment then examined its effects of this complex inoculant on soil microflora, soil N2-fixation, P- and K-solubility and kiwifruit growth under four treatments. These treatments were (1) no-fertilizer and no-bacterial inoculant (Control), (2) no-bacterial inoculant and a full-rate of chemical NPK fertilizer (CF), (3) the complex inoculant (CI), and (4) a half-rate CF and full CI (1/2CF+CI). Results indicated that significantly greater growth of N2-fixing, P- and K-solubilizing bacteria among treatments ranked from greatest to least as under 1/2CF+CI ≈ CI > CF ≈ Control. Though generally without significant treatment differences in soil total N, P, or K, significantly greater soil available N, P, or K among treatments was, respectively, patterned as under 1/2CF+CI ≈ CI > CF ≈ Control, under 1/2CF+CI > CF > CI > Control or under 1/2CF+CI > CF ≈ CI > Control, indicating an improvement of soil fertility by this complex inoculant. In regards to plant growth, significantly greater total plant biomass and total N, P, and K accumulation among treatments were ranked as 1/2CF+CI ≈ CI > CF > Control. Additionally, significantly greater leaf polyphenol oxidase activity ranked as under CF > 1/2CF+CI ≈ Control ≈ CI, while leaf malondialdehyde contents as under Control > CI ≈ CF > 1/2CF+CI. In short, the applied complex inoculant is able to improve available soil N, P, and K and kiwifruit growth. These results demonstrate the potential of using a complex bacterial inoculant for promoting soil fertility and plant growth.
PMCID: PMC4916169  PMID: 27445991
identification; Bacillus spp.; N2-fixation bacterium; K- and P-solubilizing bacteria; malondialdehyde; polyphenol oxidase
3.  Imputation of Class I and II HLA Loci using High-density SNPs from ImmunoChip and Their Associations with Kawasaki Disease in Family-based Study 
Kawasaki disease (KD) is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children in most developed countries including the United States. The etiology of KD is not known; however, epidemiological and immunological data suggest infectious or immune-related factors in the manifestation of the disease. Further, KD has several hereditary features that strongly suggest a genetic component to disease pathogenesis. Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) loci have also been reported to be associated with KD but results have been inconsistent, in part, because of small study samples and varying linkage disequilibrium (LD) patterns observed across different ethnic groups. To maximize the informativeness of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotypes in the major histocompatibility (MHC) region, we imputed classical HLA I (A, B, C) and HLA II (DRB1, DQA1, DQB1) alleles using SNP2HLA method from genotypes of 6700 SNPs within the extended MHC region contained in the ImmunoChip among 112 white KD patients and their biological parents from North America and tested their association with KD susceptibility using the transmission disequilibrium test. Mendelian consistency in the trios suggested high accuracy and reliability of the imputed alleles (class I=97.5%, class II=96.6%). While several SNPs in the MHC region were individually associated with KD susceptibility, we report over-transmission of HLA-C*15 (z=+2.19, P=0.03) and under-transmission of HLA-B*44 (z=−2.49, P=0.01) alleles from parents to KD patients. HLA-B*44 has been associated with KD in other smaller studies and both HLA-C*15 and HLA-B*44 have biological mechanisms that could potentially be involved in KD pathogenesis. Overall, inferring HLA loci within the same ethnic group, using family based information is a powerful approach. However, larger families are warranted to evaluate the correlations of the strength and directions between the SNPs in MHC region and the imputed HLA alleles with KD.
PMCID: PMC4430380  PMID: 25809546
HLA imputation; Immunochip; Kawasaki disease; MHC
4.  Broadly Neutralizing Antibody Responses in a Large Longitudinal Sub-Saharan HIV Primary Infection Cohort 
PLoS Pathogens  2016;12(1):e1005369.
Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) are thought to be a critical component of a protective HIV vaccine. However, designing vaccines immunogens able to elicit bnAbs has proven unsuccessful to date. Understanding the correlates and immunological mechanisms leading to the development of bnAb responses during natural HIV infection is thus critical to the design of a protective vaccine. The IAVI Protocol C program investigates a large longitudinal cohort of primary HIV-1 infection in Eastern and South Africa. Development of neutralization was evaluated in 439 donors using a 6 cross-clade pseudo-virus panel predictive of neutralization breadth on larger panels. About 15% of individuals developed bnAb responses, essentially between year 2 and year 4 of infection. Statistical analyses revealed no influence of gender, age or geographical origin on the development of neutralization breadth. However, cross-clade neutralization strongly correlated with high viral load as well as with low CD4 T cell counts, subtype-C infection and HLA-A*03(-) genotype. A correlation with high overall plasma IgG levels and anti-Env IgG binding titers was also found. The latter appeared not associated with higher affinity, suggesting a greater diversity of the anti-Env responses in broad neutralizers. Broadly neutralizing activity targeting glycan-dependent epitopes, largely the N332-glycan epitope region, was detected in nearly half of the broad neutralizers while CD4bs and gp41-MPER bnAb responses were only detected in very few individuals. Together the findings suggest that both viral and host factors are critical for the development of bnAbs and that the HIV Env N332-glycan supersite may be a favorable target for vaccine design.
Author Summary
Understanding how HIV-1-broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) develop during natural infection is essential to the design of an efficient HIV vaccine. We studied kinetics and correlates of neutralization breadth in a large sub-Saharan African longitudinal cohort of 439 participants with primary HIV-1 infection. Broadly nAb responses developed in 15% of individuals, on average three years after infection. Broad neutralization was associated with high viral load, low CD4+ T cell counts, virus subtype C infection and HLA*A3(-) genotype. A correlation with high overall plasma IgG levels and anti-Env binding titers was also found. Specificity mapping of the bnAb responses showed that glycan-dependent epitopes, in particular the N332 region, were most commonly targeted, in contrast to other bnAb epitopes, suggesting that the HIV Env N332-glycan epitope region may be a favorable target for vaccine design.
PMCID: PMC4713061  PMID: 26766578
5.  Positive feedback loop of hepatoma-derived growth factor and β-catenin promotes carcinogenesis of colorectal cancer 
Oncotarget  2015;6(30):29357-29374.
To clarify the role of hepatoma-derived growth factor (HDGF) and β-catenin in carcinogenesis of colorectal cancer (CRC), our results showed that high HDGF expression was found in CRC cells and tissues and significantly related to histological differentiation (p = 0.035) and lymph node metastasis (p = 0.000). Significant positive correlation between HDGF expression and β-catenin abnormal expression was found in CRC tissues. High HDGF and lymph node metastasis were the strong independent prognostic indicators for reduced overall survival in CRC patients. HDGF knockdown dramatically inhibited cellular proliferation, migration, invasion, and tumorigenesis, both in vitro and in vivo, but induced G1 phase arrest and apoptosis in CRC cells. HDGF knock-down dramatically suppressed β-catenin and its down-stream genes expression in CRC cells. Intriguingly, β-catenin knock-down dramatically suppressed HDGF expression in CRC cells. Human recombinant Wnt3a and DKK1 treatment increased and decreased HDGF, β-catenin, c-Myc, cyclin D1, MMP9, and phos-GSK-3β (Ser9) protein expression in nuclear and cytoplasmic fraction of CRC cells upon β-catenin knock-down, respectively. Three HDGF-binding elements in β-catenin promoter were found and specific for transcriptional activation of β-catenin in CRC cells. In conclusion, our results first suggest that HDGF and β-catenin interacts as a positive feedback loop, which plays an important role in carcinogenesis and progression of CRC.
PMCID: PMC4745732  PMID: 26296979
hepatoma-derived growth factor; β-catenin; colorectal cancer
6.  Immunogenetic influences on acquisition of HIV-1 infection: Consensus findings from two African cohorts point to an enhancer element in IL19 (1q32.2) 
Genes and immunity  2015;16(3):213-220.
Numerous reports have suggested that immunogenetic factors may influence HIV-1 acquisition, yet replicated findings that translate between study cohorts remain elusive. Our work aimed to test several hypotheses about genetic variants within the IL10-IL24 gene cluster that encodes interleukin (IL)-10, IL-19, IL-20, and IL-24. In aggregated data from 515 Rwandans and 762 Zambians with up to 12 years of follow-up, 190 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) passed quality control procedures. When HIV-1-exposed seronegative subjects (n = 486) were compared with newly seroconverted individuals (n = 313) and seroprevalent subjects (n = 478) who were already infected at enrollment, rs12407485 (G>A) in IL19 showed a robust association signal in adjusted logistic regression models (odds ratio = 0.64, P = 1.7 × 10−4, and q = 0.033). Sensitivity analyses demonstrated that (i) results from both cohorts and subgroups within each cohort were highly consistent; (ii) verification of HIV-1 infection status after enrollment was critical; and (iii) supporting evidence was readily obtained from Cox proportional hazards models. Data from public databases indicate that rs12407485 is part of an enhancer element for three transcription factors. Overall, these findings suggest that molecular features at the IL19 locus may modestly alter the establishment of HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC4409473  PMID: 25633979
Africa; HIV-1 infection; IL19; SNP; association; validation
7.  HLA Class-II Associated HIV Polymorphisms Predict Escape from CD4+ T Cell Responses 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(8):e1005111.
Antiretroviral therapy, antibody and CD8+ T cell-mediated responses targeting human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) exert selection pressure on the virus necessitating escape; however, the ability of CD4+ T cells to exert selective pressure remains unclear. Using a computational approach on HIV gag/pol/nef sequences and HLA-II allelic data, we identified 29 HLA-II associated HIV sequence polymorphisms or adaptations (HLA-AP) in an African cohort of chronically HIV-infected individuals. Epitopes encompassing the predicted adaptation (AE) or its non-adapted (NAE) version were evaluated for immunogenicity. Using a CD8-depleted IFN-γ ELISpot assay, we determined that the magnitude of CD4+ T cell responses to the predicted epitopes in controllers was higher compared to non-controllers (p<0.0001). However, regardless of the group, the magnitude of responses to AE was lower as compared to NAE (p<0.0001). CD4+ T cell responses in patients with acute HIV infection (AHI) demonstrated poor immunogenicity towards AE as compared to NAE encoded by their transmitted founder virus. Longitudinal data in AHI off antiretroviral therapy demonstrated sequence changes that were biologically confirmed to represent CD4+ escape mutations. These data demonstrate an innovative application of HLA-associated polymorphisms to identify biologically relevant CD4+ epitopes and suggests CD4+ T cells are active participants in driving HIV evolution.
Author Summary
In HIV, CD4+ T cells are best known as the primary targets of infection. Although emerging data has suggested a more active role in viral pathogenesis, the CD4+ T cell population remains relatively understudied. Using a novel computational approach, we predicted 29 different epitopes with mutations that potentially represent escape from CD4+ T cell responses. The predicted escaped epitopes were found to be less immunogenic than the wild type forms, suggesting that the identified escapes allow HIV to reduce its visibility to the immune system. Using longitudinal samples, we were able to show CD4+ T cells driving viral escape following acute infection. Overall, these findings significantly expand our knowledge of how CD4+ T cells can exert HIV control and influence HIV evolution, providing important implications to future vaccine development strategies.
PMCID: PMC4547780  PMID: 26302050
8.  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
9.  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
10.  Transmitted Virus Fitness and Host T Cell Responses Collectively Define Divergent Infection Outcomes in Two HIV-1 Recipients 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(1):e1004565.
Control of virus replication in HIV-1 infection is critical to delaying disease progression. While cellular immune responses are a key determinant of control, relatively little is known about the contribution of the infecting virus to this process. To gain insight into this interplay between virus and host in viral control, we conducted a detailed analysis of two heterosexual HIV-1 subtype A transmission pairs in which female recipients sharing three HLA class I alleles exhibited contrasting clinical outcomes: R880F controlled virus replication while R463F experienced high viral loads and rapid disease progression. Near full-length single genome amplification defined the infecting transmitted/founder (T/F) virus proteome and subsequent sequence evolution over the first year of infection for both acutely infected recipients. T/F virus replicative capacities were compared in vitro, while the development of the earliest cellular immune response was defined using autologous virus sequence-based peptides. The R880F T/F virus replicated significantly slower in vitro than that transmitted to R463F. While neutralizing antibody responses were similar in both subjects, during acute infection R880F mounted a broad T cell response, the most dominant components of which targeted epitopes from which escape was limited. In contrast, the primary HIV-specific T cell response in R463F was focused on just two epitopes, one of which rapidly escaped. This comprehensive study highlights both the importance of the contribution of the lower replication capacity of the transmitted/founder virus and an associated induction of a broad primary HIV-specific T cell response, which was not undermined by rapid epitope escape, to long-term viral control in HIV-1 infection. It underscores the importance of the earliest CD8 T cell response targeting regions of the virus proteome that cannot mutate without a high fitness cost, further emphasizing the need for vaccines that elicit a breadth of T cell responses to conserved viral epitopes.
Author Summary
The length of time taken by HIV-1-infected individuals to develop AIDS varies widely depending on how efficiently virus replication is controlled. Although host cellular immune responses are known to play an important role in viral control, the contributions made by the infecting virus and the host antibody response to this process are less clear. To gain insight into this, we performed a detailed analysis of the interplay between the infecting virus and host immune responses in two HIV-1-infected individuals, one of whom controlled virus replication efficiently while the other did not. We found that the virus infecting the HIV-1 controller replicated much less well in culture than that infecting the progressor. The antibody responses made by both subjects were similar, but early after infection the controller mounted a T cell response targeting many sites in the virus, whilst the progressor's T cell response initially targeted only two sites, one of which rapidly mutated to avoid immune recognition. This study highlights the contribution of the replication capacity of the infecting virus and associated early induction of a broad HIV-specific T cell response, which was less readily undermined by rapid viral escape, to viral control in HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC4287535  PMID: 25569444
11.  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
12.  Helicobacter pylori infection and pepsinogen levels have clinical significance in hypertension patients 
Helicobacter pylori (Hp) infection is known to alter levels of pepsinogens (PG) and is correlated with several disease states, including gastric and cardiovascular diseases. This study sought to assess whether Hp infection is associated with hypertension as well as to identify the value of assessing the PG I/PG II ratio in patients with hypertension. The study included 396 individuals with hypertension who were assessed for infection with Hp by colloidal gold assay. Participants’ weight, height, blood pressure, and serum lipids were measured, and participants were examined for the presence of renal or ocular damage. H. pylori infection status or PG I/PG II ratio were compared against other variables (e.g., body mass index, serum cholesterol, diastolic blood pressure) by t-test or ⇨2 test, and Pearson’s correlation analysis was used to identify associations. Consistent with other studies, the PG I/PG II ratio of patients with Hp infection was significantly lower than that of patients without Hp infection (P < 0.001). The serum total cholesterol and triglycerides of patients with Hp infection were significantly higher than those of patients without Hp infection (P < 0.001), and the PG I/PG II ratio was negatively correlated with total cholesterol (r=-0.61) and triglycerides (r=-0.56) levels. However, there was no significant difference in hypertension severity by Hp infection status or PG I/PG II ratio. Interestingly, the PG I/PG II ratio was significantly lower in patients with hypertensive nephropathy or hypertensive retinopathy than in patients without these symptoms (P < 0.05). The areas under the receiver-operating characteristic curve were 0.77 and 0.83 in the diagnosis of nephropathy and retinopathy, respectively. These findings indicate that the PG I/PG II ratio is lower in individuals with hypertensive nephropathy and hypertensive retinopathy. Thus, the detection of the PG I/PG II ratio may be valuable for diagnostic screening for hypertensive organ damage.
PMCID: PMC4307536  PMID: 25664089
Pepsinogen; Helicobacter pylori; hypertension
13.  Variants in Interleukin Family of Cytokines Genes Influence Clearance of High Risk HPV in HIV-1 Coinfected African-American Adolescents 
Human immunology  2013;74(12):10.1016/j.humimm.2013.08.010.
Our work aimed to examine the potential influence of variants in interleukin/interleukin receptors genes on high-risk (HR-HPV) HPV clearance. Clearance of genital HR-HPV infection was evaluated for 134 HIV-1 seropositive African-American female adolescents from the Reaching for Excellence in Adolescent Care and Health (REACH) cohort. Genotyping targeted 225 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the exons, 5′ untranslated region (UTR) and 3′ UTR sequences of 27 immune-related candidate genes encoding interleukin family of cytokines. Cox proportional hazard models were used to determine the association of type- specific HPV clearance adjusting for time-varying CD4+ T-cell count and low-risk (LR-HPV) HPV co-infections. HR-HPV clearance rates were significantly (p< 0.001) associated with five SNPs (rs228942, rs419598, rs315950, rs7737000, rs9292618) mapped to coding and regulatory regions in three genes (IL2RB, IL1RN, and IL7R). These data suggest that the analyzed genetic variants in interleukin family of cytokines modulate HR-HPV clearance in HIV-1 seropositive African-Americans that warrants replication.
PMCID: PMC3842375  PMID: 23973891
HPV clearance; genetic association; interleukins; HIV-1 seropositive; African American adolescents
14.  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
15.  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
16.  Toll-Like Receptor Gene Variants Associated with Bacterial Vaginosis among HIV-1 Infected Adolescents 
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal disorder in women of reproductive age, especially among women with HIV-1 infection. Several bacterial products including lipopolysaccharides (LPS), lipoteichoic acids (LTA), and peptidoglycans (PGN) are stimulatory ligands for Toll-like receptors (TLRs), and recent evidence indicates the important role of variation in TLR genes for permitting overgrowth of gram negative and BV-type flora. We assessed whether genetic polymorphisms in five TLR genes (TLR1, TLR2, TLR4, TLR6, and TLR9) could be determinants of differential host immune responses to BV in 159 HIV-1-positive African American adolescents enrolled in the Reaching for Excellence in Adolescent Care and Health (REACH) study. BV was assessed biannually and diagnosed either by a Nugent Score of at least 7 of 10, or using the Amsel Criteria. Cox-proportional hazards regression models, adjusted for concurrent Chlamydia and Gonorrhea infections, douching, and absolute CD4 cell count, were used to identify host genetic factors associated with BV. Two SNPs were associated with BV as diagnosed by the Nugent Score and the combined criteria: a minor allele G of rs4986790 (frequency=0.07), which encodes a His to Tyr substitution in TLR4 (HR=1.47, 95% CI 1.15–1.87) and rs187084 (frequency=0.24) on TLR9. The minor allele of rs1898830 (frequency=0.13) was associated with an increased hazard of BV defined by the Amsel criteria (HR=1.86, 95%CI 1.17–2.95). Further studies are warranted to confirm the associations of TLR gene variants and also to understand the underlying pathways and immunogenetic correlates in the context of HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3518650  PMID: 23021866
HIV-1; Bacterial Vaginosis; Toll Like Receptors
17.  Genetic associations with 25-hydroxyvitamin D deficiency in HIV-1-infected youth: fine-mapping for the GC/DBP gene that encodes the vitamin D-binding protein 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:234.
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] is often deficient (<12 ng/ml) or insufficient (<20 ng/ml) in youth living with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection (YLH). Based on evidence from multiple genome-wide association studies, we hypothesized that genetic factors associated with 25(OH)D deficiency should be readily detectable in YLH even when controlling for other known factors, including use of the antiretroviral drug efavirenz (EFV). Genotyping by bi-directional sequencing targeted 15 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at the GC/DBP locus, with a focus on coding and regulatory variants, as well as those repeatedly reported in the literature. Three intronic SNPs (rs222016, rs222020, and rs222029) in a conserved haplotype block had unequivocal association signals (false discovery rate ≤ 0.006). In particular, the minor allele G for rs222020 was highly unfavorable among 192 YLH (99 African–Americans and 93 others), as gauged by relatively low likelihood for 25(OH)D sufficiency at enrollment (odds ratio = 0.31, p = 9.0 × 10-4). In a reduced multivariable model, race, season, latitude, body mass index, exposure to EFV, and rs222020-G were independent factors that collectively accounted for 38% of variance in the log10-transformed 25(OH)D concentration (p < 0.0001). Interaction terms were evident for rs222020-G × season (p < 0.001), latitude × season (especially fall and winter; p < 0.01), and race × EFV use (p = 0.024). Overall, variance in serum 25(OH)D is substantially attributable to multiple factors, but the exact contribution of genetic and non-genetic factors can be obscured by partial overlaps and frequent interactions.
PMCID: PMC3827582  PMID: 24294218
antiretroviral; genetics; HIV-1; race; youth; vitamin D
18.  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
20.  Predictors of Suboptimal Virologic Response to Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy Among Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Adolescents 
To examine the prevalence and biopsychosocial predictors of sub-optimal virologic response to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected adolescents.
Population-based cohort study.
Sixteen academic medical centers across thirteen cities in the United States.
One hundred and fifty four HIV-infected adolescents who presented for at least two consecutive visits after initiation of HAART.
Main Outcome Measures
Viral load (plasma concentration of HIV RNA), CD4+ T-lymphocyte count.
Of the 154 adolescents enrolled in the study, 50 (32.5%) demonstrated early and sustained virologic suppression while receiving HAART. The remaining 104 adolescents (67.5%) had a poor virologic response. Adequate adherence (>50%) to HAART—reported by 70.8% of respondents—was associated with a 60% reduced odds of suboptimal virologic suppression in a multivariable logistic regression model (adjusted odds ratio = 0.4; 95% confidence interval : 0.2 – 1.0). Exposure to sub-optimal antiretroviral therapy (ART) prior to HAART, on the other hand, was associated with more than a two-fold increased odds of sub-optimal virologic response (adjusted odds ratio = 2.6; 95% confidence interval: 1.1 – 5.7).
Fully two-thirds of HIV-infected adolescents in the current study demonstrated a sub-optimal virologic response to HAART. Non-adherence and prior single or dual ART were associated with subsequent poor virologic responses to HAART. These predictors of HAART failure echo findings in pediatric and adult populations. Given the unique developmental stage of adolescence, age-specific interventions are indicated to address high rates of non-adherence and therapeutic failure.
PMCID: PMC3739292  PMID: 19996046
HIV; Adolescent; Antiretroviral Therapy; Highly Active; Adherence; Viral Load; CD4 Lymphocyte Count
21.  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
22.  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
23.  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
24.  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
25.  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

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