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1.  Reviewer acknowledgement 2014 
Retrovirology  2015;12:19.
Contributing reviewers
Retrovirology would like to sincerely thank the following for giving their time and expertise to review manuscripts for the journal in 2014. Their support for the journal is greatly appreciated.
PMCID: PMC4328582
2.  Elevated expression of LAG-3, but not PD-1, is associated with impaired iNKT cytokine production during chronic HIV-1 infection and treatment 
Retrovirology  2015;12:17.
LAG-3 is a potent negative regulator of the immune response but its impact in HIV infection in poorly understood. Unlike exhaustion markers such as PD-1, Tim-3, 2B4 and CD160, LAG-3 is poorly expressed on bulk and antigen-specific T cells during chronic HIV infection and its expression on innate lymphocyte subsets is not well understood. The aim of this study was to assess LAG-3 expression and association with cellular dysfunction on T cells, NK cells and iNKT cells among a cohort of healthy and HIV-infected female sex workers in Nairobi, Kenya.
Ex vivo LAG-3 expression was measured by multiparametric flow cytometry, and plasma cytokine/chemokine concentrations measured by bead array. Although LAG-3 expression on bulk T cells was significantly increased among HIV-infected women, the proportion of cells expressing the marker was extremely low. In contrast, LAG-3 was more highly expressed on NK and iNKT cells and was not reduced among women treated with ART. To assess the functional impact of LAG-3 on iNKT cells, iNKT cytokine production was measured in response to lipid (αGalCer) and PMA/Io stimulation by both flow cytometry and cytokine bead array. iNKT cytokine production is profoundly altered by both HIV infection and treatment, and LAG-3, but not PD-1, expression is associated with a reduction in iNKT IFNγ production.
LAG-3 does not appear to mediate T cell exhaustion in this African population, but is instead expressed on innate lymphocyte subsets including iNKT cells. HIV infection alters iNKT cytokine production patterns and LAG-3 expression is uniquely associated with iNKT dysfunction. The continued expression of LAG-3 during treatment suggests it may contribute to the lack of innate immune reconstitution commonly observed during ART.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-015-0142-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4332911
Exhaustion; iNKT cells; LAG-3 protein human; HIV; CD223; Immune dysfunction
3.  The HIV-1 Antisense Protein (ASP) induces CD8 T cell responses during chronic infection 
Retrovirology  2015;12:15.
CD8+ T cells recognize HIV-1 epitopes translated from a gene’s primary reading frame (F1) and any one of its five alternative reading frames (ARFs) in the forward (F2, F3) or reverse (R1-3) directions. The 3’ end of HIV-1’s proviral coding strand contains a conserved sequence that is directly overlapping but antiparallel to the env gene (ARF R2) and encodes for a putative antisense HIV-1 protein called ASP. ASP expression has been demonstrated in vitro using HIV-transfected cell lines or infected cells. Although antibodies to ASP were previously detected in patient sera, T cell recognition of ASP-derived epitopes has not been evaluated. We therefore investigated the ex vivo and in vitro induction of ASP-specific T cell responses as a measure of immune recognition and protein expression during HIV-1 infection.
A panel of overlapping peptides was initially designed from the full-length ASP sequence to perform a global assessment of T cell responses. Recognition of ASP-derived antigens was evaluated in an IFN-γELISpot assay using PBMCs from HIV-1 seropositive and seronegative individuals. Eight of 25 patients had positive responses to ASP antigens and none of the seronegative donors responded. As a complimentary approach, a second set of antigens was designed using HLA-I binding motifs and affinities. Two ASP-derived peptides with high predicted binding affinities for HLA-A*02 (ASP-YL9) and HLA-B*07 (ASP-TL10) were tested using PBMCs from HIV-1 seropositive and seronegative individuals who expressed the matching HLA-I-restricting allele. We found that HLA-I-restricted ASP peptides were only recognized by CD8+ T cells from patients with the relevant HLA-I and did not induce responses in any of the seronegative donors or patients who do not express the restrictive HLA alleles. Further, ASP-YL9-specific CD8+ T cells had functional profiles that were similar to a previously described HLA-A*02-restricted epitope (Gag-SL9). Specific recognition of ASP-YL9 by CD8+ T cells was also demonstrated by tetramer staining using cells from an HLA-A*02 HIV-infected patient.
Our results provide the first description of CD8+ T cell-mediated immune responses to ASP in HIV-1-infected patients, demonstrating that ASP is expressed during infection. Our identification of epitopes within ASP has implications for designing HIV vaccines.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-015-0135-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4335690
Chronic HIV-1; ASP; CD8+ T-lymphocytes; HLA-I; Cryptic epitopes; Alternative reading frame
4.  In vitro activity of dolutegravir against wild-type and integrase inhibitor-resistant HIV-2 
Retrovirology  2015;12:10.
Dolutegravir recently became the third integrase strand transfer inhibitor (INSTI) approved for use in HIV-1–infected individuals. In contrast to the extensive dataset for HIV-1, in vitro studies and clinical reports of dolutegravir for HIV-2 are limited. To evaluate the potential role of dolutegravir in HIV-2 treatment, we compared the susceptibilities of wild-type and INSTI-resistant HIV-1 and HIV-2 strains to the drug using single-cycle assays, spreading infections of immortalized T cells, and site-directed mutagenesis.
HIV-2 group A, HIV-2 group B, and HIV-1 isolates from INSTI-naïve individuals were comparably sensitive to dolutegravir in the single-cycle assay (mean EC50 values = 1.9, 2.6, and 1.3 nM, respectively). Integrase substitutions E92Q, Y143C, E92Q + Y143C, and Q148R conferred relatively low levels of resistance to dolutegravir in HIV-2ROD9 (2- to 6-fold), but Q148K, E92Q + N155H, T97A + N155H and G140S + Q148R resulted in moderate resistance (10- to 46-fold), and the combination of T97A + Y143C in HIV-2ROD9 conferred high-level resistance (>5000-fold). In contrast, HIV-1NL4-3 mutants E92Q + N155H, G140S + Q148R, and T97A + Y143C showed 2-fold, 4-fold, and no increase in EC50, respectively, relative to the parental strain. The resistance phenotypes for E92Q + N155H, and G140S + Q148R HIV-2ROD9 were also confirmed in spreading infections of CEM-ss cells.
Our data support the use of dolutegravir in INSTI-naïve HIV-2 patients but suggest that, relative to HIV-1, a broader array of replacements in HIV-2 integrase may enable cross-resistance between dolutegravir and other INSTI. Clinical studies are needed to evaluate the efficacy of dolutegravir in HIV-2–infected individuals, including patients previously treated with raltegravir or elvitegravir.
PMCID: PMC4328052
5.  The decline of human endogenous retroviruses: extinction and survival 
Retrovirology  2015;12:8.
Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVs) are retroviruses that over the course of evolution have integrated into germline cells and eventually become part of the host genome. They proliferate within the germline of their host, making up ~5% of the human and mouse genome sequences. Several lines of evidence have suggested a decline in the rate of ERV integration into the human genome in recent evolutionary history but this has not been investigated quantitatively or possible causes explored.
By dating the integration of ERV loci in 40 mammal species, we show that the human genome and that of other hominoids (great apes and gibbons) have experienced an approximately four-fold decline in the ERV integration rate over the last 10 million years. A major cause is the recent extinction of one very large ERV lineage (HERV-H), which is responsible for most of the integrations over the last 30 million years. The decline however affects most other ERV lineages. Only about 10% of the decline might be attributed to an accompanying increase in body mass (a trait we have shown recently to be negatively correlated with ERV integration rate). Humans are unusual compared to related species – Old World monkeys, great apes and gibbons – in (a) having not acquired any new ERV lineages during the last 30 million years and (b) the possession of an old ERV lineage that has continued to replicate up until at least the last few hundred thousand years – the potentially medically significant HERVK(HML2).
The human genome shares with the genome of other great apes and gibbons a recent decline in ERV integration that is not typical of other primates and mammals. The human genome differs from that of related species both in maintaining up until at least recently a replicating old ERV lineage and in not having acquired any new lineages. We speculate that the decline in ERV integration in the human genome has been exacerbated by a relatively low burden of horizontally-transmitted retroviruses and subsequent reduced risk of endogenization.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-015-0136-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4335370  PMID: 25640971
Endogenous retrovirus; HERV-K; ERV; XRV; Evolution; Life history traits
6.  Obituary for Guy de Thé 
Retrovirology  2015;12:7.
PMCID: PMC4335422  PMID: 25636333
7.  Opposing regulation of endolysosomal pathways by long-acting nanoformulated antiretroviral therapy and HIV-1 in human macrophages 
Retrovirology  2015;12:5.
Long-acting nanoformulated antiretroviral therapy (nanoART) is designed to improve patient regimen adherence, reduce systemic drug toxicities, and facilitate clearance of human immunodeficiency virus type one (HIV-1) infection. While nanoART establishes drug depots within recycling and late monocyte-macrophage endosomes, whether or not this provides a strategic advantage towards viral elimination has not been elucidated.
We applied quantitative SWATH-MS proteomics and cell profiling to nanoparticle atazanavir (nanoATV)-treated and HIV-1 infected human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM). Native ATV and uninfected cells served as controls. Both HIV-1 and nanoATV engaged endolysosomal trafficking for assembly and depot formation, respectively. Notably, the pathways were deregulated in opposing manners by the virus and the nanoATV, likely by viral clearance. Paired-sample z-scores, of the proteomic data sets, showed up- and down- regulation of Rab-linked endolysosomal proteins. NanoART and native ATV treated uninfected cells showed limited effects. The data was confirmed by Western blot. DAVID and KEGG bioinformatics analyses of proteomic data showed relationships between secretory, mobility and phagocytic cell functions and virus and particle trafficking.
We posit that modulation of endolysosomal pathways by antiretroviral nanoparticles provides a strategic path to combat HIV infection.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0133-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4307176  PMID: 25608975
Macrophages; HIV-1; Proteomics; NanoART; Endocytic pathways; Rab proteins
8.  Endogenous CCL2 neutralization restricts HIV-1 replication in primary human macrophages by inhibiting viral DNA accumulation 
Retrovirology  2015;12:4.
Macrophages are key targets of HIV-1 infection. We have previously described that the expression of CC chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) increases during monocyte differentiation to macrophages and it is further up-modulated by HIV-1 exposure. Moreover, CCL2 acts as an autocrine factor that promotes viral replication in infected macrophages. In this study, we dissected the molecular mechanisms by which CCL2 neutralization inhibits HIV-1 replication in monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM), and the potential involvement of the innate restriction factors protein sterile alpha motif (SAM) histidine/aspartic acid (HD) domain containing 1 (SAMHD1) and apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing, enzyme-catalytic, polypeptide-like 3 (APOBEC3) family members.
CCL2 neutralization potently reduced the number of p24 Gag+ cells during the course of either productive or single cycle infection with HIV-1. In contrast, CCL2 blocking did not modify entry of HIV-1 based Virus Like Particles, thus demonstrating that the restriction involves post-entry steps of the viral life cycle. Notably, the accumulation of viral DNA, both total, integrated and 2-LTR circles, was strongly impaired by neutralization of CCL2. Looking for correlates of HIV-1 DNA accumulation inhibition, we found that the antiviral effect of CCL2 neutralization was independent of the modulation of SAMHD1 expression or function. Conversely, a strong and selective induction of APOBEC3A expression, to levels comparable to those of freshly isolated monocytes, was associated with the inhibition of HIV-1 replication mediated by CCL2 blocking. Interestingly, the CCL2 neutralization mediated increase of APOBEC3A expression was type I IFN independent. Moreover, the transcriptome analysis of the effect of CCL2 blocking on global gene expression revealed that the neutralization of this chemokine resulted in the upmodulation of additional genes involved in the defence response to viruses.
Neutralization of endogenous CCL2 determines a profound restriction of HIV-1 replication in primary MDM affecting post-entry steps of the viral life cycle with a mechanism independent of SAMHD1. In addition, CCL2 blocking is associated with induction of APOBEC3A expression, thus unravelling a novel mechanism which might contribute to regulate the expression of innate intracellular viral antagonists in vivo. Thus, our study may potentially lead to the development of new therapeutic strategies for enhancing innate cellular defences against HIV-1 and protecting macrophages from infection.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0132-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4314729  PMID: 25608886
Monocyte-derived macrophage; CCL2; HIV-1; Restriction; SAMHD1; APOBEC3A
9.  Sequence and structural determinants of human APOBEC3H deaminase and anti-HIV-1 activities 
Retrovirology  2015;12:3.
Human APOBEC3H (A3H) belongs to the A3 family of host restriction factors, which are cytidine deaminases that catalyze conversion of deoxycytidine to deoxyuridine in single-stranded DNA. A3 proteins contain either one (A3A, A3C, A3H) or two (A3B, A3D, A3F, A3G) Zn-binding domains. A3H has seven haplotypes (I-VII) that exhibit diverse biological phenotypes and geographical distribution in the human population. Its single Zn-coordinating deaminase domain belongs to a phylogenetic cluster (Z3) that is different from the Z1- and Z2-type domains in other human A3 proteins. A3H HapII, unlike A3A or A3C, has potent activity against HIV-1. Here, we sought to identify the determinants of A3H HapII deaminase and antiviral activities, using site-directed sequence- and structure-guided mutagenesis together with cell-based, biochemical, and HIV-1 infectivity assays.
We have constructed a homology model of A3H HapII, which is similar to the known structures of other A3 proteins. The model revealed a large cluster of basic residues (not present in A3A or A3C) that are likely to be involved in nucleic acid binding. Indeed, RNase A pretreatment of 293T cell lysates expressing A3H was shown to be required for detection of deaminase activity, indicating that interaction with cellular RNAs inhibits A3H catalytic function. Similar observations have been made with A3G. Analysis of A3H deaminase substrate specificity demonstrated that a 5′ T adjacent to the catalytic C is preferred. Changing the putative nucleic acid binding residues identified by the model resulted in reduction or abrogation of enzymatic activity, while substituting Z3-specific residues in A3H to the corresponding residues in other A3 proteins did not affect enzyme function. As shown for A3G and A3F, some A3H mutants were defective in catalysis, but retained antiviral activity against HIV-1vif (−) virions. Furthermore, endogenous reverse transcription assays demonstrated that the E56A catalytic mutant inhibits HIV-1 DNA synthesis, although not as efficiently as wild type.
The molecular and biological activities of A3H are more similar to those of the double-domain A3 proteins than to those of A3A or A3C. Importantly, A3H appears to use both deaminase-dependent and -independent mechanisms to target reverse transcription and restrict HIV-1 replication.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0130-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4323217  PMID: 25614027
HIV-1; APOBEC3H; Homology model; Deaminase activity; Antiviral activity; Deaminase-independent restriction; Reverse transcription
10.  HIV-2 infects resting CD4+ T cells but not monocyte-derived dendritic cells 
Retrovirology  2015;12:2.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus-type 2 (HIV-2) encodes Vpx that degrades SAMHD1, a cellular restriction factor active in non-dividing cells. HIV-2 replicates in lymphocytes but the susceptibility of monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MDDCs) to in vitro infection remains partly characterized.
Here, we investigated HIV-2 replication in primary CD4+ T lymphocytes, both activated and non-activated, as well as in MDDCs. We focused on the requirement of Vpx for productive HIV-2 infection, using the reference HIV-2 ROD strain, the proviral clone GL-AN, as well as two primary HIV-2 isolates. All HIV-2 strains tested replicated in activated CD4+ T cells. Unstimulated CD4+ T cells were not productively infected by HIV-2, but viral replication was triggered upon lymphocyte activation in a Vpx-dependent manner. In contrast, MDDCs were poorly infected when exposed to HIV-2. HIV-2 particles did not potently fuse with MDDCs and did not lead to efficient viral DNA synthesis, even in the presence of Vpx. Moreover, the HIV-2 strains tested were not efficiently sensed by MDDCs, as evidenced by a lack of MxA induction upon viral exposure. Virion pseudotyping with VSV-G rescued fusion, productive infection and HIV-2 sensing by MDDCs.
Vpx allows the non-productive infection of resting CD4+ T cells, but does not confer HIV-2 with the ability to efficiently infect MDDCs. In these cells, an entry defect prevents viral fusion and reverse transcription independently of SAMHD1. We propose that HIV-2, like HIV-1, does not productively infect MDDCs, possibly to avoid triggering an immune response mediated by these cells.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0131-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4307230  PMID: 25582927
HIV-2; Vpx; SAMHD1; Monocyte-derived dendritic cells; CD4+ lymphocytes; Interferon
11.  The highly polymorphic cyclophilin A-binding loop in HIV-1 capsid modulates viral resistance to MxB 
Retrovirology  2015;12:1.
The human myxovirus-resistance protein B (MxB, also called Mx2) was recently reported to inhibit HIV-1 infection by impeding the nuclear import and integration of viral DNA. However, it is currently unknown whether there exist MxB-resistant HIV-1 strains in the infected individuals. Answer to this question should address whether MxB exerts an inhibitory pressure on HIV-1 in vivo and whether HIV-1 has evolved to evade MxB inhibition.
We have examined ten transmitted founder (T/F) HIV-1 strains for their sensitivity to MxB inhibition by infecting CD4+ T cell lines SupT1 and PM1 that were stably transduced to express MxB. Two T/F stains, CH040.c and RHPA.c, were found resistant and this resistance phenotype was mapped to the amino acid positions 87 and 208 in viral capsid. The H87Q mutation is located in the cyclophilin A (CypA) binding loop and has a prevalence of 21% in HIV-1 sequences registered in HIV database. This finding prompted us to test other frequent amino acid variants in the CypA-binding region and the results revealed MxB-resistant mutations at amino acid positions 86, 87, 88 and 92 in capsid. All these mutations diminished the interaction of HIV-1 capsid with CypA.
Our results demonstrate the existence of MxB-resistant T/F HIV-1 strains. The high prevalence of MxB-resistant mutations in the CypA-binding loop indicates the significant selective pressure of MxB on HIV-1 replication in vivo especially given that this viral resistance mechanism operates at expense of losing CypA.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0129-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4300040  PMID: 25571928
MxB; HIV; Transmitted founder virus; CypA
12.  Caveolin-1 mediated uptake via langerin restricts HIV-1 infection in human Langerhans cells 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):123.
Human Langerhans cells (LCs) reside in foreskin and vaginal mucosa and are the first immune cells to interact with HIV-1 during sexual transmission. LCs capture HIV-1 through the C-type lectin receptor langerin, which routes the virus into Birbeck granules (BGs), thereby preventing HIV-1 infection. BGs are langerin-positive organelles exclusively present in LCs, however, their origin and function are unknown.
Here, we not only show that langerin and caveolin-1 co-localize at the cell membrane and in vesicles but also that BGs are langerin/caveolin-1-positive vesicles are linked to the lysosomal degradation pathway in LCs. Moreover, inhibition of caveolar endocytosis in primary LCs abrogated HIV-1 sequestering into langerin+ caveolar structures. Notably, both inhibition of caveolar uptake and silencing of caveolar structure protein caveolin-1 resulted in increased HIV-1 integration and subsequent infection. In contrast, inhibition of clathrin-mediated endocytosis did not affect HIV-1 integration, even though HIV-1 uptake was decreased, suggesting that clathrin-mediated endocytosis is not involved in HIV-1 restriction in LCs.
Thus, our data strongly indicate that BGs belong to the caveolar endocytosis pathway and that caveolin-1 mediated HIV-1 uptake is an intrinsic restriction mechanism present in human LCs that prevents HIV-1 infection. Harnessing this particular internalization pathway has the potential to facilitate strategies to combat HIV-1 transmission.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0123-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4301922  PMID: 25551286
HIV-1 restriction; Caveolin-1; Langerhans cells; Langerin; Birbeck granules; Caveolar uptake; Clathrin
13.  Friend retrovirus drives cytotoxic effectors through Toll-like receptor 3 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):126.
Pathogen recognition drives host defense towards viral infections. Specific groups rather than single members of the protein family of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) such as membrane spanning Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and cytosolic helicases might mediate sensing of replication intermediates of a specific virus species. TLR7 mediates host sensing of retroviruses and could significantly influence retrovirus-specific antibody responses. However, the origin of efficient cell-mediated immunity towards retroviruses is unknown. Double-stranded RNA intermediates produced during retroviral replication are good candidates for immune stimulatory viral products. Thus, we considered TLR3 as primer of cell-mediated immunity against retroviruses in vivo.
Infection of mice deficient in TLR3 (TLR3−/−) with Friend retrovirus (FV) complex revealed higher viral loads during acute retroviral infection compared to wild type mice. TLR3−/− mice exhibited significantly lower expression levels of type I interferons (IFNs) and IFN-stimulated genes like Pkr or Ifi44, as well as reduced numbers of activated myeloid dendritic cells (DCs) (CD86+ and MHC-II+). DCs generated from FV-infected TLR3−/− mice were less capable of priming virus-specific CD8+ T cell proliferation. Moreover, cytotoxicity of natural killer (NK) cells as well as CD8+ T cells were reduced in vitro and in vivo, respectively, in FV-infected TLR3-/- mice.
TLR3 mediates antiretroviral cytotoxic NK cell and CD8+ T cell activity in vivo. Our findings qualify TLR3 as target of immune therapy against retroviral infections.
PMCID: PMC4299798  PMID: 25539593
Toll-like receptor 3; Friend Retrovirus; Dendritic cells; NK cells; Cytotoxic T cells; Pathogen recognition
14.  Computational modeling suggests dimerization of equine infectious anemia virus Rev is required for RNA binding 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):115.
The lentiviral Rev protein mediates nuclear export of intron-containing viral RNAs that encode structural proteins or serve as the viral genome. Following translation, HIV-1 Rev localizes to the nucleus and binds its cognate sequence, termed the Rev-responsive element (RRE), in incompletely spliced viral RNA. Rev subsequently multimerizes along the viral RNA and associates with the cellular Crm1 export machinery to translocate the RNA-protein complex to the cytoplasm. Equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV) Rev is functionally homologous to HIV-1 Rev, but shares very little sequence similarity and differs in domain organization. EIAV Rev also contains a bipartite RNA binding domain comprising two short arginine-rich motifs (designated ARM-1 and ARM-2) spaced 79 residues apart in the amino acid sequence. To gain insight into the topology of the bipartite RNA binding domain, a computational approach was used to model the tertiary structure of EIAV Rev.
The tertiary structure of EIAV Rev was modeled using several protein structure prediction and model quality assessment servers. Two types of structures were predicted: an elongated structure with an extended central alpha helix, and a globular structure with a central bundle of helices. Assessment of models on the basis of biophysical properties indicated they were of average quality. In almost all models, ARM-1 and ARM-2 were spatially separated by >15 Å, suggesting that they do not form a single RNA binding interface on the monomer. A highly conserved canonical coiled-coil motif was identified in the central region of EIAV Rev, suggesting that an RNA binding interface could be formed through dimerization of Rev and juxtaposition of ARM-1 and ARM-2. In support of this, purified Rev protein migrated as a dimer in Blue native gels, and mutation of a residue predicted to form a key coiled-coil contact disrupted dimerization and abrogated RNA binding. In contrast, mutation of residues outside the predicted coiled-coil interface had no effect on dimerization or RNA binding.
Our results suggest that EIAV Rev binding to the RRE requires dimerization via a coiled-coil motif to juxtapose two RNA binding motifs, ARM-1 and ARM-2.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0115-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4299382  PMID: 25533001
Rev; Bipartite RNA binding domain; EIAV; Lentivirus; Dimerization; Coiled-coil motif; Arginine-rich motif
15.  Cross-clade simultaneous HIV drug resistance genotyping for reverse transcriptase, protease, and integrase inhibitor mutations by Illumina MiSeq 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):122.
Viral resistance to antiretroviral therapy threatens our best methods to control and prevent HIV infection. Current drug resistance genotyping methods are costly, optimized for subtype B virus, and primarily detect resistance mutations to protease and reverse transcriptase inhibitors. With the increasing use of integrase inhibitors in first-line therapies, monitoring for integrase inhibitor drug resistance mutations is a priority. We designed a universal primer pair to PCR amplify all major group M HIV-1 viruses for genotyping using Illumina MiSeq to simultaneously detect drug resistance mutations associated with protease, nucleoside reverse transcriptase, non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase, and integrase inhibitors.
A universal primer pair targeting the HIV pol gene was used to successfully PCR amplify HIV isolates representing subtypes A, B, C, D, CRF01_AE and CRF02_AG. The universal primers were then tested on 62 samples from a US cohort of injection drug users failing treatment after release from prison. 94% of the samples were successfully genotyped for known drug resistance mutations in the protease, reverse transcriptase and integrase gene products. Control experiments demonstrate that mutations present at ≥ 2% frequency are reliably detected and above the threshold of error for this method. New drug resistance mutations not found in the baseline sample were identified in 54% of the patient samples after treatment failure. 86% of patients with major drug resistance mutations had 1 or more mutations associated with drug resistance to the treatment regimen at the time point of treatment failure. 59% of the emerging mutations were found at frequencies between 2% and 20% of the total sequences generated, below the estimated limit of detection of current FDA-approved genotyping techniques. Primary plasma samples with viral loads as low as 799 copies/ml were successfully genotyped using this method.
Here we present an Illumina MiSeq-based HIV drug resistance genotyping assay. Our data suggests that this universal assay works across all major group M HIV-1 subtypes and identifies all drug resistance mutations in the pol gene known to confer resistance to protease, reverse transcriptase and integrase inhibitors. This high-throughput and sensitive assay could significantly improve access to drug resistance genotyping worldwide.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0122-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302432  PMID: 25533166
Human immunodeficiency virus; Antiretroviral therapy; HIV drug resistance; Drug resistance genotyping; Illumina MiSeq; Integrase inhibitor genotyping; Deep sequencing
16.  Detailed characterization of antibody responses against HIV-1 group M consensus gp120 in rabbits 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):125.
We recently reported induction of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) against multiple HIV-1 (human immunodeficiency virus type 1) isolates in rabbits, albeit weak against tier 2 viruses, using a monomeric gp120 derived from an M group consensus sequence (MCON6). To better understand the nature of the neutralizing activity, detailed characterization of immunological properties of the protein was performed. Immunogenic linear epitopes were identified during the course of immunization, and spatial distribution of these epitopes was determined. Subdomain antibody target analyses were done using the gp120 outer domain (gp120-OD) and eOD-GT6, a protein based on a heterologous sequence. In addition, refined epitope mapping analyses were done by competition assays using several nAbs with known epitopes.
Based on linear epitope mapping analyses, the V3 loop was most immunogenic, followed by C1 and C5 regions. The V1/V2 loop was surprisingly non-immunogenic. Many immunogenic epitopes were clustered together even when they were distantly separated in primary sequence, suggesting the presence of immunogenic hotspots on the protein surface. Although substantial antibody responses were directed against the outer domain, only about 0.1% of the antibodies bound eOD-GT6. Albeit weak, antibodies against peptides that corresponded to a part of the bnAb VRC01 binding site were detected. Although gp120-induced antibodies could not block VRC01 binding to eOD-GT6, they were able to inhibit VRC01 binding to both gp120 and trimeric BG505 SOSIP gp140. The immune sera also efficiently competed with CD4-IgG2, as well as nAbs 447-52D, PGT121 and PGT126, in binding to gp120.
The results suggest that some antibodies that bind at or near known bnAb epitopes could be partly responsible for the breadth of neutralizing activity induced by gp120 in our study. Immunization strategies that enhance induction of these antibodies relative to others (e.g. V3 loop), and increase their affinity, could improve protective efficacy of an HIV-1 vaccine.
PMCID: PMC4300834  PMID: 25527085
HIV-1 vaccine; Neutralizing antibody; eOD-GT6; gp120; SOSIP gp140; Immunogenic epitope; Antibody competition
17.  Kinetic variations between reverse transcriptases of viral protein X coding and noncoding lentiviruses 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):111.
Host SAM domain and HD domain-containing protein 1 (SAMHD1) suppresses reverse transcription kinetics of HIV-1 in nondividing cells such as macrophages by hydrolyzing and nearly depleting cellular dNTPs, which are the substrates of viral reverse transcriptase (RT). However, unlike HIV-1, HIV-2 and SIVsm encode viral protein X (Vpx), which counteracts the dNTPase activity of SAMHD1 and elevates dNTP concentration, allowing the viruses to replicate under abundant dNTP conditions even in nondividing cells.
Here we tested whether RTs of these Vpx coding and noncoding lentiviruses display different enzyme kinetic profiles in response to dNTP concentrations. For this test, we characterized an extensive collection of RTs from 7 HIV-1 strains, 4 HIV-2 strains and 7 SIV strains, and determined their steady-state kinetic parameters. The Km values of all HIV-1 RTs were consistently low and close to the low dNTP concentrations found in macrophages. However, the Km values of SIV and HIV-2 RTs were not only higher than those of HIV-1 RTs but also varied significantly, indicating that HIV-2/SIV RTs require higher dNTP concentrations for efficient DNA synthesis, compared to HIV-1 RT. However, the kcat values of all eighteen lentiviral RTs were very similar.
Our biochemical analysis supports the hypothesis that the enzymological properties, particularly, Km values, of lentivirus RTs, are mechanistically tied with the cellular dNTP availability in nondividing target cells, which is controlled by SAMHD1 and Vpx.
PMCID: PMC4282736  PMID: 25524560
Lentivirus; Reverse transcriptase; Enzyme kinetics; Vpx; SAMHD1; dNTPs; Macrophages
18.  High-throughput profiling of point mutations across the HIV-1 genome 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):124.
The HIV-1 pandemic is not the result of a static pathogen but a large genetically diverse and dynamic viral population. The virus is characterized by a highly mutable genome rendering efforts to design a universal vaccine a significant challenge and drives the emergence of drug resistant variants upon antiviral pressure. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the mutational tolerance of each HIV-1 genomic position is therefore of critical importance.
Here we combine high-density mutagenesis with the power of next-generation sequencing to gauge the replication capacity and therefore mutational tolerability of single point mutations across the entire HIV-1 genome. We were able to achieve the evaluation of point mutational effects on viral replicative capacity for 5,553 individual HIV-1 nucleotide positions – representing 57% of the viral genome. Replicative capacity was assessed at 3,943 nucleotide positions for a single alternate base change, 1,459 nucleotide positions for two alternate base changes, and 151 nucleotide positions for all three possible alternate base changes. This resulted in the study of how a total of 7,314 individual point mutations impact HIV-1 replication on a single experimental platform. We further utilize the dataset for a focused structural analysis on a capsid inhibitor binding pocket.
The approach presented here can be applied to any pathogen that can be genetically manipulated in a laboratory setting. Furthermore, the methodology can be utilized under externally applied selection conditions, such as drug or immune pressure, to identify genetic elements that contribute to drug or host interactions, and therefore mutational routes of pathogen resistance and escape.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0124-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4300175  PMID: 25522661
HIV-1; Next-generation sequencing; Mutagenesis
19.  Re-visiting the functional Relevance of the highly conserved Serine 40 Residue within HIV-1 p6Gag 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):114.
HIV-1 formation is driven by the viral structural polyprotein Gag, which assembles at the plasma membrane into a hexagonal lattice. The C-terminal p6Gag domain harbors short peptide motifs, called late domains, which recruit the cellular endosomal sorting complex required for transport and promote HIV-1 abscission from the plasma membrane. Similar to late domain containing proteins of other viruses, HIV-1 p6 is phosphorylated at multiple residues, including a highly conserved serine at position 40. Previously published studies showed that an S40F exchange in p6Gag severely affected virus infectivity, while we had reported that mutation of all phosphorylatable residues in p6Gag had only minor effects.
We introduced mutations into p6Gag without affecting the overlapping pol reading frame by using an HIV-1 derivative where gag and pol are genetically uncoupled. HIV-1 derivatives with a conservative S40N or a non-conservative S40F exchange were produced. The S40F substitution severely affected virus maturation and infectivity as reported before, while the S40N exchange caused no functional defects and the variant was fully infectious in T-cell lines and primary T-cells.
An HIV-1 variant carrying a conservative S40N exchange in p6Gag is fully functional in tissue culture demonstrating that neither S40 nor its phosphorylation are required for HIV-1 release and maturation. The phenotype of the S40F mutation appears to be caused by the bulky hydrophobic residue introduced into a flexible region.
PMCID: PMC4301901  PMID: 25524645
Human immunodeficiency virus; Gag; p6; Phosphorylation; Release; Serine 40
20.  Obituary: Remembering Michael Piatak, Jr. 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):92.
PMCID: PMC4266953  PMID: 25516284
21.  Diminished transmission of drug resistant HIV-1 variants with reduced replication capacity in a human transmission model 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):113.
Different patterns of drug resistance are observed in treated and therapy naïve HIV-1 infected populations. Especially the NRTI-related M184I/V variants, which are among the most frequently encountered mutations in treated patients, are underrepresented in the antiretroviral naïve population. M184I/V mutations are known to have a profound effect on viral replication and tend to revert over time in the new host. However it is debated whether a diminished transmission efficacy of HIV variants with a reduced replication capacity can also contribute to the observed discrepancy in genotypic patterns.
As dendritic cells (DCs) play a pivotal role in HIV-1 transmission, we used a model containing primary human Langerhans cells (LCs) and DCs to compare the transmission efficacy M184 variants (HIV-M184V/I/T) to HIV wild type (HIV-WT). As control, we used HIV harboring the NNRTI mutation K103N (HIV-K103N) which has a minor effect on replication and is found at a similar prevalence in treated and untreated individuals.
In comparison to HIV-WT, the HIV-M184 variants were less efficiently transmitted to CCR5+ Jurkat T cells by both LCs and DCs. The transmission rate of HIV-K103N was slightly reduced to HIV-WT in LCs and even higher than HIV-WT in DCs. Replication experiments in CCR5+ Jurkat T cells revealed no apparent differences in replication capacity between the mutant viruses and HIV-WT. However, viral replication in LCs and DCs was in concordance with the transmission results; replication by the HIV-M184 variants was lower than replication by HIV-WT, and the level of replication of HIV-K103N was intermediate for LCs and higher than HIV-WT for DCs.
Our data demonstrate that drug resistant M184-variants display a reduced replication capacity in LCs and DCs which directly impairs their transmission efficacy. As such, diminished transmission efficacy may contribute to the lower prevalence of drug resistant variants in therapy naive individuals.
PMCID: PMC4272521  PMID: 25499671
HIV-1; Drug resistance; Transmission; Dendritic cells; Langerhans cells; M184V; K103N
22.  A HIV-1 Tat mutant protein disrupts HIV-1 Rev function by targeting the DEAD-box RNA helicase DDX1 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):121.
Previously we described a transdominant negative mutant of the HIV-1 Tat protein, termed Nullbasic, that downregulated the steady state levels of unspliced and singly spliced viral mRNA, an activity caused by inhibition of HIV-1 Rev activity. Nullbasic also altered the subcellular localizations of Rev and other cellular proteins, including CRM1, B23 and C23 in a Rev-dependent manner, suggesting that Nullbasic may disrupt Rev function and trafficking by intervening with an unidentified component of the Rev nucleocytoplasmic transport complex.
To seek a possible mechanism that could explain how Nullbasic inhibits Rev activity, we used a proteomics approach to identify host cellular proteins that interact with Nullbasic. Forty-six Nullbasic-binding proteins were identified by mass spectrometry including the DEAD-box RNA helicase, DDX1. To determine the effect of DDX1 on Nullbasic-mediated Rev activity, we performed cell-based immunoprecipitation assays, Rev reporter assays and bio-layer interferometry (BLI) assays. Interaction between DDX1 and Nullbasic was observed by co-immunoprecipitation of Nullbasic with endogenous DDX1 from cell lysates. BLI assays showed a direct interaction between Nullbasic and DDX1. Nullbasic affected DDX1 subcellular distribution in a Rev-independent manner. Interestingly overexpression of DDX1 in cells not only restored Rev-dependent mRNA export and gene expression in a Rev reporter assay but also partly reversed Nullbasic-induced Rev subcellular mislocalization. Moreover, HIV-1 wild type Tat co-immunoprecipitated with DDX1 and overexpression of Tat could rescue the unspliced viral mRNA levels inhibited by Nullbasic in HIV-1 expressing cells.
Nullbasic was used to further define the complex mechanisms involved in the Rev-dependent nuclear export of the 9 kb and 4 kb viral RNAs. All together, these data indicate that DDX1 can be sequestered by Nullbasic leading to destabilization of the Rev nucleocytoplasmic transport complex and decreased levels of Rev-dependent viral transcripts. The outcomes support a role for DDX1 in maintenance of a Rev nuclear complex that transports viral RRE-containing mRNA to the cytoplasm. To our knowledge Nullbasic is the first anti-HIV protein that specifically targets the cellular protein DDX1 to block Rev’s activity. Furthermore, our research raises the possibility that wild type Tat may play a previously unrecognized but very important role in Rev function.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0121-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4271445  PMID: 25496916
HIV-1; Rev; Tat; Nullbasic; Helicase; DDX1; RNA export
23.  Cytotoxic T lymphocyte lysis of HTLV-1 infected cells is limited by weak HBZ protein expression, but non-specifically enhanced on induction of Tax expression 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):116.
Immunogenetic evidence indicates that cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) specific for the weak CTL antigen HBZ limit HTLV-1 proviral load in vivo, whereas there is no clear relationship between the proviral load and the frequency of CTLs specific for the immunodominant antigen Tax. In vivo, circulating HTLV-1-infected cells express HBZ mRNA in contrast, Tax expression is typically low or undetectable. To elucidate the virus-suppressing potential of CTLs targeting HBZ, we compared the ability of HBZ- and Tax-specific CTLs to lyse naturally-infected cells, by co-incubating HBZ- and Tax-specific CTL clones with primary CD4+ T cells from HLA-matched HTLV-1-infected donors. We quantified lysis of infected cells, and tested whether specific virus-induced host cell surface molecules determine the susceptibility of infected cells to CTL-mediated lysis.
Primary infected cells upregulated HLA-A*02, ICAM-1, Fas and TRAIL-R1/2 in concert with Tax expression, forming efficient targets for both HTLV-1-specific CTLs and CTLs specific for an unrelated virus. We detected expression of HBZ mRNA (spliced isoform) in both Tax-expressing and non-expressing infected cells, and the HBZ26–34 epitope was processed and presented by cells transfected with an HBZ expression plasmid. However, when coincubated with primary cells, a high-avidity HBZ-specific CTL clone killed significantly fewer infected cells than were killed by a Tax-specific CTL clone. Finally, incubation with Tax- or HBZ-specific CTLs resulted in a significant decrease in the frequency of cells expressing high levels of HLA-A*02.
HTLV-1 gene expression in primary CD4+ T cells non-specifically increases susceptibility to CTL lysis. Despite the presence of HBZ spliced-isoform mRNA, HBZ epitope presentation by primary cells is significantly less efficient than that of Tax.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0116-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4282740  PMID: 25499803
HTLV-1; Retrovirus; Cytotoxic lymphocyte response; CTL; HBZ; Tax; HLA; ICAM-1; Fas
24.  Are anti-HIV IgAs good guys or bad guys? 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):109.
An estimated 90% of all HIV transmissions occur mucosally. Immunoglobulin A (IgA) molecules are important components of mucosal fluids. In a vaccine efficacy study, in which virosomes displaying HIV gp41 antigens protected most rhesus monkeys (RMs) against simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV), protection correlated with vaginal IgA capable of blocking HIV transcytosis in vitro. Furthermore, vaginal IgG exhibiting virus neutralization and/or antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) correlated with prevention of systemic infection. In contrast, plasma IgG had neither neutralizing nor ADCC activity. More recently, a passive mucosal immunization study provided the first direct proof that dimeric IgAs (dIgAs) can prevent SHIV acquisition in RMs challenged mucosally. This study compared dimeric IgA1 (dIgA1), dIgA2, or IgG1 versions of a human neutralizing monoclonal antibody (nmAb) targeting a conserved HIV Env epitope. While the nmAb neutralization profiles were identical in vitro, dIgA1 was significantly more protective in vivo than dIgA2. Protection was linked to a new mechanism: virion capture. Protection also correlated with inhibition of transcytosis of cell-free virus in vitro. While both of these primate model studies demonstrated protective effects of mucosal IgAs, the RV144 clinical trial identified plasma IgA responses to HIV Env as risk factors for increased HIV acquisition. In a secondary analysis of RV144, plasma IgA decreased the in vitro ADCC activity of vaccine-induced, Env-specific IgG with the same epitope specificity. Here we review the current literature regarding the potential of IgA – systemic as well as mucosal – in modulating virus acquisition and address the question whether anti-HIV IgA responses could help or harm the host.
PMCID: PMC4297362  PMID: 25499540
IgA; Dimeric IgA1 (dIgA1); dIgA2; Secretory IgA (SIgA); HIV/SHIV; Mucosal transmission; Passive immunization; Non-human primate models; RV144 trial; AIDS vaccine development
25.  Genome-wide shRNA screening identifies host factors involved in early endocytic events for HIV-1-induced CD4 down-regulation 
Retrovirology  2014;11(1):118.
Down-modulation of the CD4 receptor is one of the hallmarks of HIV-1 infection and it is believed to confer a selective replicative advantage to the virus in vivo. This process is mainly mediated by three viral proteins: Env, Vpu and Nef. To date, the mechanisms that lead to CD4 depletion from the surface of infected cells during HIV-1 infection are still only partially characterized. In this study, we sought to identify and characterize cellular host factors in HIV-1-induced CD4 down-modulation.
To identify host factors involved in CD4 down-regulation, we used a whole genome-targeting shRNA lentiviral library in HeLa CD4+ cells expressing Nef as an inducer of CD4 down-modulation. We identified 55 genes, mainly encoding for proteins involved in various steps of clathrin-mediated endocytosis. For confirmation and further selection of the hits we performed several rounds of validation, using individual shRNA lentiviral vectors with a different target sequence for gene knock-down in HIV-1-infected T cells. By this stringent validation set-up, we could demonstrate that the knock-down of DNM3 (dynamin 3), SNX22 (sorting nexin 22), ATP6AP1 (ATPase, H+ Transporting, Lysosomal Accessory Protein 1), HRBL (HIV-Rev binding protein Like), IDH3G (Isocitrate dehydrogenase), HSP90B1 (Heat shock protein 90 kDa beta member 1) and EPS15 (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Pathway Substrate 15) significantly increases CD4 levels in HIV-infected SupT1 T cells compared to the non-targeting shRNA control. Moreover, EPS15, DNM3, IDH3G and ATP6AP1 knock-down significantly decreases HIV-1 replication in T cells.
We identified seven genes as cellular co-factors for HIV-1-mediated CD4 down-regulation in T cells. The knock-down of four out of seven of these genes also significantly reduces HIV-1 replication in T cells. Next to a role in HIV-mediated CD4 down-regulation, these genes might however affect HIV-1 replication in another way. Our findings give insights in the HIV-1-mediated CD4 down-regulation at the level of the plasma membrane and early endosomes and identify four possible new HIV-1 replication co-factors.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0118-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4269872  PMID: 25496667
HIV-1; shRNA; CD4; Nef; Endocytosis

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