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1.  Interactions between Zinc Deficiency and Environmental Enteropathy in Developing Countries1 
Advances in Nutrition  2014;5(1):1-6.
Zinc deficiency affects one-fifth of the world’s population and leads to substantial morbidity and mortality. Environmental enteropathy (EE), a subclinical pathology of altered intestinal morphology and function, is almost universal among people living in developing countries and affects long-term growth and health. This review explores the overlapping nature of these 2 conditions and presents evidence for their interaction. EE leads to impaired zinc homeostasis, predominantly due to reduced absorptive capacity arising from disturbed intestinal architecture, and zinc deficiency exacerbates several of the proposed pathways that underlie EE, including intestinal permeability, enteric infection, and chronic inflammation. Ongoing zinc deficiency likely perpetuates the adverse outcomes of EE by worsening malabsorption, reducing intestinal mucosal immune responses, and exacerbating systemic inflammation. Although the etiology of EE is predominantly environmental, zinc deficiency may also have a role in its pathogenesis. Given the impact of both EE and zinc deficiency on morbidity and mortality in developing countries, better understanding the relation between these 2 conditions may be critical for developing combined interventions to improve child health.
PMCID: PMC3884090  PMID: 24425714
2.  Congenital and Postnatal CMV and EBV Acquisition in HIV-Infected Zimbabwean Infants 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114870.
HIV-infected infants in sub-Saharan Africa have rapid disease progression. We hypothesized that co-infection with cytomegalovirus (CMV) or Epstein Barr virus (EBV) increases mortality in HIV-infected infants.
257 antiretroviral therapy-naïve HIV-infected Zimbabwean infants were tested for CMV and EBV at 6 weeks of age by real-time PCR; if positive, birth samples were retrieved where available to distinguish congenital and postnatal infection. The impact of co-infection on mortality through 6 months was estimated using Kaplan-Meier and Cox proportional hazards methods.
At 6 weeks, 203/257 (79%) HIV-infected infants were CMV-positive; 27 (11%) had congenital CMV, 108 (42%) postnatal CMV and 68 (26%) indeterminate timing of infection. By 6 months, 37/108 (34%) infants with postnatal CMV versus 16/54 (30%) CMV-negative infants died (adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) 1.1 [95%CI 0.6, 2.2]). At 6 weeks, 33/257 (13%) HIV-infected infants had EBV co-infection; 6 (2%) had congenital EBV, 18 (7%) postnatal EBV and 9 (4%) indeterminate timing of infection. By 6 months, 5/18 (28%) infants with postnatal EBV versus 72/224 (32%) EBV-negative infants died (aHR 0.8 [95%CI 0.3, 2.3]).
The vast majority of HIV-infants had acquired CMV by 6 weeks, and EBV co-infection occurred earlier than expected, with one in eight HIV-infected infants positive for EBV by 6 weeks. There was a high prevalence of congenital CMV infection and we identified 6 infants with congenital EBV infection, which has not previously been reported in Africa or in the context of HIV infection. Neither CMV nor EBV co-infection was associated with increased mortality.
PMCID: PMC4270791  PMID: 25522217
3.  A Randomized Trial of Prolonged Co-trimoxazole in HIV-Infected Children in Africa 
Co-trimoxazole (fixed-dose trimethoprim–sulfamethoxazole) prophylaxis administered before antiretroviral therapy (ART) reduces morbidity in children infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). We investigated whether children and adolescents receiving long-term ART in sub-Saharan Africa could discontinue co-trimoxazole.
We conducted a randomized, noninferiority trial of stopping versus continuing daily open-label co-trimoxazole in children and adolescents in Uganda and Zimbabwe. Eligible participants were older than 3 years of age, had been receiving ART for more than 96 weeks, were using insecticide-treated bed nets (in malaria-endemic areas), and had not had Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia. Coprimary end points were hospitalization or death and adverse events of grade 3 or 4.
A total of 758 participants were randomly assigned to stop or continue co-trimoxazole (382 and 376 participants, respectively), after receiving ART for a median of 2.1 years (interquartile range, 1.8 to 2.3). The median age was 7.9 years (interquartile range, 4.6 to 11.1), and the median CD4 T-cell percentage was 33% (interquartile range, 26 to 39). Participants who stopped co-trimoxazole had higher rates of hospitalization or death than those who continued (72 participants [19%] vs. 48 [13%]; hazard ratio, 1.64; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.14 to 2.37; P = 0.007; noninferiority not shown). There was no evidence of variation across ages (P = 0.93 for interaction). A total of 2 participants in the prophylaxis-stopped group (1%) died, as did 3 in the prophylaxis-continued group (1%). Most hospitalizations in the prophylaxis-stopped group were for malaria (49 events, vs. 21 in the prophylaxis-continued group) or infections other than malaria (53 vs. 25), particularly pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. Rates of adverse events of grade 3 or 4 were similar in the two groups (hazard ratio, 1.20; 95% CI, 0.83 to 1.72; P = 0.33), but more grade 4 adverse events occurred in the prophylaxis-stopped group (hazard ratio, 2.04; 95% CI, 0.99 to 4.22; P = 0.05), with anemia accounting for the largest number of events (12, vs. 2 with continued prophylaxis).
Continuing co-trimoxazole prophylaxis after 96 weeks of ART was beneficial, as compared with stopping prophylaxis, with fewer hospitalizations for both malaria and infection not related to malaria. (Funded by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council and others; ARROW Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN24791884.)
PMCID: PMC4264559  PMID: 24382064
4.  Dosing of Praziquantel by Height in Sub-Saharan African Adults 
The cornerstone of schistosomiasis control is mass praziquantel treatment in high prevalence areas. Adults are an important target population, given increasing recognition of the burden of male and female genital schistosomiasis. However, use of weighing scales to calculate praziquantel dosing in rural areas can be challenging. For school-age children, the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved a dose pole to simplify praziquantel dosing based on height. We modified the pediatric dose pole by adding two height categories and incorporating a simple overweight/obesity adjustment, for simplified mass treatment of adults in sub-Saharan Africa. Using the rural Zimbabwean Demographic and Health Survey data, we show that the modified dose pole with body mass index adjustment would result in > 98% of adults receiving an acceptable dose (30–60 mg/kg), with only 1.4% and 0.3% receiving an inadequate dose (< 30 mg/kg) or high dose (> 60 mg/kg), respectively. An adult dose pole may provide a more feasible alternative to weighing scales in community-based praziquantel treatment programs.
PMCID: PMC3973506  PMID: 24591432
5.  Stunting Is Characterized by Chronic Inflammation in Zimbabwean Infants 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e86928.
Stunting affects one-third of children in developing countries, but the causes remain unclear. We hypothesized that enteropathy leads to low-grade inflammation, which suppresses the growth hormone-IGF axis and mediates stunting.
We conducted a case-control study of 202 HIV-unexposed Zimbabwean infants who were stunted (height-for-age Z-score (HAZ) <−2; cases) or non-stunted (HAZ >−0.5; controls) at 18 months. We measured biomarkers of intestinal damage (I-FABP), inflammation (CRP, AGP, IL-6) and growth hormone-IGF axis (IGF-1, IGFBP3) in infant plasma at 6 weeks and 3, 6, 12 and 18 months, and in paired maternal-infant plasma at birth. Adjusted mean differences between biomarkers were estimated using regression models. Multivariate odds ratios of stunting were estimated by logistic regression.
At birth, cases were shorter (median (IQR) HAZ −1.00 (−1.53, −0.08) vs 0.03 (−0.57, 0.62,); P<0.001) than controls and their mothers had lower levels of IGF-1 (adjusted mean difference (95%CI) −21.4 (−39.8, −3.1) ng/mL). From 6 weeks to 12 months of age, levels of CRP and AGP were consistently higher and IGF-1 and IGFBP3 lower in cases versus controls; IGF-1 correlated inversely with inflammatory markers at all time-points. I-FABP increased between 3–12 months, indicating extensive intestinal damage during infancy, which was similar in cases and controls. In multivariate analysis, higher log10 levels of CRP (aOR 3.06 (95%CI 1.34, 6.99); P = 0.008) and AGP (aOR 7.87 (95%CI 0.74, 83.74); P = 0.087) during infancy were associated with stunting. There were no associations between levels of I-FABP, IL-6, sCD14 or EndoCAb and stunting.
Stunting began in utero and was associated with low maternal IGF-1 levels at birth. Inflammatory markers were higher in cases than controls from 6 weeks of age and were associated with lower levels of IGF-1 throughout infancy. Higher levels of CRP and AGP during infancy were associated with stunting. These findings suggest that an extensive enteropathy occurs during infancy and that low-grade chronic inflammation may impair infant growth.
PMCID: PMC3928146  PMID: 24558364
6.  Immunity to HIV in Early Life 
The developing immune system is adapted to the exposure to a plethora of pathogenic and non-pathogenic antigens encountered in utero and after birth, requiring a fine balance between protective immunity and immune tolerance. In early stages of life, this tolerogenic state of the innate and adaptive immune system and the lack of immunological memory render the host more susceptible to infectious pathogens like HIV. HIV pathogenesis is different in children, compared to adults, with more rapid disease progression and a substantial lack of control of viremia compared to adults. Plasma viral load remains high during infancy and only declines gradually over several years in line with immune maturation, even in rare cases where children maintain normal CD4 T-lymphocyte counts for several years without antiretroviral therapy (ART). These pediatric slow progressors also typically show low levels of immune activation despite persistently high viremia, resembling the phenotype of natural hosts of SIV infection. The lack of immunological memory places the fetus and the newborn at higher risk of infections; however, it may also provide an opportunity for unique interventions. Frequencies of central memory CD4+ T-lymphocytes, one of the main cellular reservoirs of HIV, are very low in the newborn child, so immediate ART could prevent the establishment of persistent viral reservoirs and result in “functional cure.” However, as recently demonstrated in the case report of the “Mississippi child” who experienced viral rebound after more than 2 years off ART, additional immunomodulatory strategies might be required for sustained viral suppression after ART cessation. In this review, we discuss the interactions between HIV and the developing immune system in children and the potential implications for therapeutic and prophylactic interventions.
PMCID: PMC4130105  PMID: 25161656
HIV; pediatric; innate immunity; adaptive immunity; immune responses; immune activation; immune exhaustion; viral reservoir
7.  Predicting Patterns of Long-Term CD4 Reconstitution in HIV-Infected Children Starting Antiretroviral Therapy in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Cohort-Based Modelling Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001542.
Using data from the ARROW trial, Joanna Lewis and colleagues investigate the CD4 cell count recovery profiles of children infected with HIV starting antiretroviral therapy in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Long-term immune reconstitution on antiretroviral therapy (ART) has important implications for HIV-infected children, who increasingly survive into adulthood. Children's response to ART differs from adults', and better descriptive and predictive models of reconstitution are needed to guide policy and direct research. We present statistical models characterising, qualitatively and quantitatively, patterns of long-term CD4 recovery.
Methods and Findings
CD4 counts every 12 wk over a median (interquartile range) of 4.0 (3.7, 4.4) y in 1,206 HIV-infected children, aged 0.4–17.6 y, starting ART in the Antiretroviral Research for Watoto trial (ISRCTN 24791884) were analysed in an exploratory analysis supplementary to the trial's pre-specified outcomes. Most (n = 914; 76%) children's CD4 counts rose quickly on ART to a constant age-corrected level. Using nonlinear mixed-effects models, higher long-term CD4 counts were predicted for children starting ART younger, and with higher CD4 counts (p<0.001). These results suggest that current World Health Organization–recommended CD4 thresholds for starting ART in children ≥5 y will result in lower CD4 counts in older children when they become adults, such that vertically infected children who remain ART-naïve beyond 10 y of age are unlikely ever to normalise CD4 count, regardless of CD4 count at ART initiation. CD4 profiles with four qualitatively distinct reconstitution patterns were seen in the remaining 292 (24%) children. Study limitations included incomplete viral load data, and that the uncertainty in allocating children to distinct reconstitution groups was not modelled.
Although younger ART-naïve children are at high risk of disease progression, they have good potential for achieving high CD4 counts on ART in later life provided ART is initiated following current World Health Organization (WHO), Paediatric European Network for Treatment of AIDS, or US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. In contrast, to maximise CD4 reconstitution in treatment-naïve children >10 y, ART should ideally be considered even if there is a low risk of immediate disease progression. Further exploration of the immunological mechanisms for these CD4 recovery profiles should help guide management of paediatric HIV infection and optimise children's immunological development.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Worldwide, about 3.3 million children under 15 years old are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. More than 90% of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 600 children become infected with HIV every day, usually acquiring the virus from their mother during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. HIV gradually reduces the numbers of CD4 lymphocytes in the immune system, leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. HIV infection can be kept in check but not cured with antiretroviral therapy (ART)—cocktails of drugs that have to be taken every day throughout life. ART reduces the amount of virus in the blood (viral load), which allows the immune system to recover (long-term immune reconstitution). Unfortunately, ART is very expensive, but concerted international efforts over the past decade mean that about a third of children who need ART are now receiving it, including half a million children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Why Was This Study Done?
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend initiation of ART at age-related CD4 cell count thresholds based on the risk of short-term disease progression. The guidelines recommend that all HIV-positive children under two years old begin ART as soon they receive a diagnosis of HIV infection. For children aged 2–5 years, ART initiation is recommended once the CD4 count drops below 750 cells/µl blood, whereas for older children the threshold for ART initiation is 350 CD4 cells/µl. Because of improved ART coverage, many more HIV-infected children now survive into adulthood than in the past. It is therefore important to know how the timing of ART initiation in childhood affects long-term immune reconstitution. Unfortunately, although several studies have examined the effect of ART on immune reconstitution in adults, the results of these studies cannot be extrapolated to children because of age-related differences in immune reconstitution. In this cohort-based modelling study, the researchers investigate long-term CD4 recovery in a cohort (group) of HIV-infected children initiating ART in Uganda and Zimbabwe, and present statistical models that predict patterns of long-term CD4 status based on age and CD4 count at ART initiation.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To investigate long-term CD4 reconstitution in children, the researchers used CD4 counts collected during the ARROW trial, a study designed to investigate monitoring strategies during first-line ART in 1,206 HIV-positive children. In three-quarters of the children, CD4 reconstitution following ART initiation was asymptotic—CD4 counts increased rapidly immediately after ART initiation, then slowed before eventually reaching a constant level of about 80% of the CD4 count expected in an uninfected child of the same age. Using a nonlinear mixed-effects statistical model that fitted this pattern of immune reconstitution, the researchers predicted CD4 trajectories for children starting ART at different ages and with different CD4 counts. Higher long-term counts were predicted for children starting ART earlier and with higher CD4 counts. Thus, to achieve a CD4 count greater than 700 cells/µl at age 20 years, CD4 counts of at least 96 cells/µl, 130 cells/µl, and 557 cells/µl are needed for children aged two, five, and 12 years, respectively, when they initiate ART. Qualitatively distinct reconstitution patterns were seen in the remaining children in the study.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that young HIV-positive, ART-naïve children can achieve high CD4 counts in later life, provided ART is initiated as recommended in the current WHO guidelines. However, the recommended CD4 count thresholds for ART initiation are unlikely to maximize immune reconstitution in treatment-naïve children over ten years old. Rather, these findings suggest that ART initiation should be considered in these older children when their CD4 count is still high—even though they have a low risk of immediate disease progression—in order to achieve higher long-term CD4 levels. The omission of viral load measurements in the researchers' model may limit the accuracy of these findings. Moreover, although the predictions made by the model apply to children who will go on to experience asymptotic recovery, they are less relevant to those with different recovery profiles, who cannot currently be accurately identified. Further exploration of the immunological mechanisms underlying the CD4 recovery profiles described here should improve our understanding of the factors that determine the response of HIV-positive children to ART and provide information to guide the management of HIV infections in children.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in Africa and on HIV infection in children (in English and Spanish)
The UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report 2012 provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it; the UNAIDS's 2013 Progress Report on the Global Plan provides information on progress towards eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to AIDS treatment (in several languages); its 2010 guidelines for ART in infants and children can be downloaded
Information about the ARROW trial is available
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS, including stories from young people infected with HIV, are available through Avert, through Nam/aidsmap, and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3812080  PMID: 24204216
8.  Formative Research on Hygiene Behaviors and Geophagy among Infants and Young Children and Implications of Exposure to Fecal Bacteria 
We conducted direct observation of 23 caregiver–infant pairs for 130 hours and recorded wash-related behaviors to identify pathways of fecal–oral transmission of bacteria among infants. In addition to testing fingers, food, and drinking water of infants, three infants actively ingested 11.3 ± 9.2 (mean ± SD) handfuls of soil and two ingested chicken feces 2 ± 1.4 times in 6 hours. Hand washing with soap was not common and drinking water was contaminated with Escherichia coli in half (12 of 22) of the households. A one-year-old infant ingesting 1 gram of chicken feces in a day and 20 grams of soil from a laundry area of the kitchen yard would consume 4,700,000–23,000,000 and 440–4,240 E. coli, respectively, from these sources. Besides standard wash and nutrition interventions, infants in low-income communities should be protected from exploratory ingestion of chicken feces, soil, and geophagia for optimal child health and growth.
PMCID: PMC3795101  PMID: 24002485
9.  Food Chain Mycotoxin Exposure, Gut Health, and Impaired Growth: A Conceptual Framework1 
Advances in Nutrition  2012;3(4):526-531.
Childhood stunting is an important and intractable public health problem that underlies ∼20% of deaths among children aged <5 y in developing countries. Environmental enteropathy (EE), a subclinical condition of the small intestine characterized by reduced absorptive capacity and increased intestinal permeability, is almost universal among children in developing countries and may mediate stunting. However, the etiology of EE is poorly understood. Mycotoxins are metabolites of fungi that frequently contaminate the staple foods of children living in developing countries. We review evidence from human and animal studies that exposure to mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxin (AF), fumonisin (FUM), and deoxynivaenol (DON), may impair child growth. Although these toxins have distinct actions, they all mediate intestinal damage through: 1) inhibition of protein synthesis (AF, DON); 2) an increase in systemic proinflammatory cytokines (DON); and 3) inhibition of ceramide synthase (FUM). The intestinal pathology that arises from mycotoxin exposure is very similar to that of EE. We propose that future studies should address the role of mycotoxins in the pathogenesis of EE and evaluate interventions to limit mycotoxin exposure and reduce childhood stunting.
PMCID: PMC3649721  PMID: 22797988
10.  Enteropathies in the Developing World: Neglected Effects on Global Health 
A spectrum of enteropathies, characterized by small intestinal inflammation, reduced absorptive capacity, and increased intestinal permeability, commonly affect people in developing countries. This subclinical intestinal pathology facilitates microbial translocation across the compromised intestinal barrier, leading to chronic systemic inflammation that may adversely impact health. Environmental enteropathy (EE), ubiquitous among people living in unhygienic conditions, likely mediates two interlinked public health problems of childhood, stunting and anemia, and underlies poor oral vaccine efficacy in developing countries. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) enteropathy, which frequently overlaps with EE, may contribute to immune activation and modulate HIV disease progression. The interacting effects of infection and enteropathy drive a vicious cycle that can propagate severe acute malnutrition, which underlies almost half of under-5-y deaths. Enteropathies are therefore highly prevalent, interacting causes of morbidity and mortality in developing countries. Interventions to prevent or ameliorate enteropathies have potential to improve the health of millions of people in developing countries.
PMCID: PMC3335677  PMID: 22556071
11.  Mortality in the Year Following Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation in HIV-Infected Adults and Children in Uganda and Zimbabwe 
In low-income countries, children ≥4 years and adults with low CD4 count have equally high mortality risk in the 3 months after initiation of antiretroviral therapy, similar to that of untreated individuals. Bacterial infections play a major role; targeted interventions could have important benefits.
Background. Adult mortality in the first 3 months on antiretroviral therapy (ART) is higher in low-income than in high-income countries, with more similar mortality after 6 months. However, the specific patterns of changing risk and causes of death have rarely been investigated in adults, nor compared with children in low-income countries.
Methods. We used flexible parametric hazard models to investigate how mortality risks varied over the first year on ART in human immunodeficiency virus–infected adults (aged 18–73 years) and children (aged 4 months to 15 years) in 2 trials in Zimbabwe and Uganda.
Results. One hundred seventy-nine of 3316 (5.4%) adults and 39 of 1199 (3.3%) children died; half of adult/pediatric deaths occurred in the first 3 months. Mortality variation over year 1 was similar; at all CD4 counts/CD4%, mortality risk was greatest between days 30 and 50, declined rapidly to day 180, then declined more slowly. One-year mortality after initiating ART with 0–49, 50–99 or ≥100 CD4 cells/μL was 9.4%, 4.5%, and 2.9%, respectively, in adults, and 10.1%, 4.4%, and 1.3%, respectively, in children aged 4–15 years. Mortality in children aged 4 months to 3 years initiating ART in equivalent CD4% strata was also similar (0%–4%: 9.1%; 5%–9%: 4.5%; ≥10%: 2.8%). Only 10 of 179 (6%) adult deaths and 1 of 39 (3%) child deaths were probably medication-related. The most common cause of death was septicemia/meningitis in adults (20%, median 76 days) and children (36%, median 79 days); pneumonia also commonly caused child deaths (28%, median 41 days).
Conclusions. Children ≥4 years and adults with low CD4 values have remarkably similar, and high, mortality risks in the first 3 months after ART initiation in low-income countries, similar to cohorts of untreated individuals. Bacterial infections are a major cause of death in both adults and children; targeted interventions could have important benefits.
PMCID: PMC3501336  PMID: 22972859
12.  Short Communication: CD8+ T Cell Polyfunctionality Profiles in Progressive and Nonprogressive Pediatric HIV Type 1 Infection 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2011;27(9):1005-1012.
Pediatric HIV-1 infection is characterized by rapid disease progression and without antiretroviral therapy (ART), more than 50% of infected children die by the age of 2 years. However, a small subset of infected children progresses slowly to disease in the absence of ART. This study aimed to identify functional characteristics of HIV-1-specific T cell responses that distinguish children with rapid and slow disease progression. Fifteen perinatally HIV-infected children (eight rapid and seven slow progressors) were longitudinally studied to monitor T cell polyfunctionality. HIV-1-specific interferon (IFN)-γ+ CD8+ T cell responses gradually increased over time but did not differ between slow and rapid progressors. However, polyfunctional HIV-1-specific CD8+ T cell responses, as assessed by the expression of four functions (IFN-γ, CD107a, TNF-α, MIP-1β), were higher in slow compared to rapid progressors (p=0.05) early in infection, and was associated with slower subsequent disease progression. These data suggest that the quality of the HIV-specific CD8+ T cell response is associated with the control of disease in children as has been shown in adult infection.
PMCID: PMC3332389  PMID: 21288139
13.  Treatment of Young Children with HIV Infection: Using Evidence to Inform Policymakers 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001273.
Andrew Prendergast and colleagues consider the evidence for a change in policy for the treatment of young children infected with HIV.
PMCID: PMC3404108  PMID: 22910874
14.  Postembryonic neuronal addition in Zebrafish dorsal root ganglia is regulated by Notch signaling 
Neural Development  2012;7:23.
The sensory neurons and glia of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) arise from neural crest cells in the developing vertebrate embryo. In mouse and chick, DRG formation is completed during embryogenesis. In contrast, zebrafish continue to add neurons and glia to the DRG into adulthood, long after neural crest migration is complete. The molecular and cellular regulation of late DRG growth in the zebrafish remains to be characterized.
In the present study, we use transgenic zebrafish lines to examine neuronal addition during postembryonic DRG growth. Neuronal addition is continuous over the period of larval development. Fate-mapping experiments support the hypothesis that new neurons are added from a population of resident, neural crest-derived progenitor cells. Conditional inhibition of Notch signaling was used to assess the role of this signaling pathway in neuronal addition. An increase in the number of DRG neurons is seen when Notch signaling is inhibited during both early and late larval development.
Postembryonic growth of the zebrafish DRG comes about, in part, by addition of new neurons from a resident progenitor population, a process regulated by Notch signaling.
PMCID: PMC3438120  PMID: 22738203
16.  Interplay between Foxd3 and Mitf regulates cell fate plasticity in the zebrafish neural crest 
Developmental biology  2010;344(1):107-118.
Pigment cells of the zebrafish, Danio rerio, offer an exceptionally tractable system for studying the genetic and cellular bases of cell fate decisions. In the zebrafish, neural crest cells generate three types of pigment cells during embryogenesis: yellow xanthophores, iridescent iridophores and black melanophores. In this study, we present evidence for a model whereby melanophores and iridophores descend from a common precursor whose fate is regulated by an interplay between the transcription factors Mitf and Foxd3. Loss of mitfa, a key regulator of melanophore development, resulted in supernumerary ectopic iridophores while loss of foxd3, a mitfa repressor, resulted in fewer iridophores. Double mutants showed a restoration of iridophores, suggesting that one of Foxd3’s roles is to suppress mitfa to promote iridophore development. Foxd3 co-localized with pnp4a, a novel marker of early iridophore development, and was necessary for its expression. Considerable overlap was found between iridoblast and melanoblast markers but not xanthoblast markers, which resolved as cells began to differentiate. Cell lineage analyses using the photoconvertible marker, EosFP, revealed that both melanophores and iridophores develop from a mitfa+ precursor. Taken together, our data reveal a Foxd3/mitfa transcriptional switch that governs whether a bi-potent pigment precursor will attain either an iridophore or a melanophore fate.
PMCID: PMC2909359  PMID: 20460180
zebrafish; neural crest; pigment cell; cell fate regulation
17.  Adaptation of HIV-1 to human leukocyte antigen class I 
Nature  2009;458(7238):641-645.
The rapid and extensive spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic provides a rare opportunity to witness host–pathogen co-evolution involving humans. A focal point is the interaction between genes encoding human leukocyte antigen (HLA) and those encoding HIV proteins. HLA molecules present fragments (epitopes) of HIV proteins on the surface of infected cells to enable immune recognition and killing by CD8+ T cells; particular HLA molecules, such as HLA-B*57, HLA-B*27 and HLA-B*51, are more likely to mediate successful control of HIV infection1. Mutation within these epitopes can allow viral escape from CD8+ T-cell recognition. Here we analysed viral sequences and HLA alleles from >2,800 subjects, drawn from 9 distinct study cohorts spanning 5 continents. Initial analysis of the HLA-B*51-restricted epitope, TAFTIPSI (reverse transcriptase residues 128–135), showed a strong correlation between the frequency of the escape mutation I135X and HLA-B*51 prevalence in the 9 study cohorts (P = 0.0001). Extending these analyses to incorporate other well-defined CD8+ T-cell epitopes, including those restricted by HLA-B*57 and HLA-B*27, showed that the frequency of these epitope variants (n = 14) was consistently correlated with the prevalence of the restricting HLA allele in the different cohorts (together, P < 0.0001), demonstrating strong evidence of HIV adaptation to HLA at a population level. This process of viral adaptation may dismantle the well-established HLA associations with control of HIV infection that are linked to the availability of key epitopes, and highlights the challenge for a vaccine to keep pace with the changing immunological landscape presented by HIV.
PMCID: PMC3148020  PMID: 19242411
18.  Replicative Capacity of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Transmitted from Mother to Child Is Associated with Pediatric Disease Progression Rate▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;84(1):492-502.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected infants in the developing world typically progress to AIDS or death within the first 2 years of life. However, a minority progress relatively slowly. This study addresses the potential contribution of viral factors to HIV disease progression in eight infants selected from a well-characterized cohort of C clade HIV-infected infants, monitored prospectively from birth in Durban, South Africa. Three infants were defined as “progressors,” and five were defined as “slow progressors.” We observed that slow-progressor infants carry HIV isolates with significantly lower replicative capacity compared to virus from progressors. Furthermore, our data suggest a link between the attenuated viral phenotype and HLA-B* 57/5801 epitope-specific Gag mutational patterns of the transmitted virus and not to coreceptor usage or to the presence of Nef deletions or insertions. These data underline the importance of virus-host interactions and highlight the contribution of viral attenuation through Gag-specific CD8+ T-cell escape mutations, among other factors, in the control of pediatric HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC2798410  PMID: 19828603
19.  Impact of HLA in Mother and Child on Disease Progression of Pediatric Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Infection▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(19):10234-10244.
A broad Gag-specific CD8+ T-cell response is associated with effective control of adult human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. The association of certain HLA class I molecules, such as HLA-B*57, -B*5801, and -B*8101, with immune control is linked to mutations within Gag epitopes presented by these alleles that allow HIV to evade the immune response but that also reduce viral replicative capacity. Transmission of such viruses containing mutations within Gag epitopes results in lower viral loads in adult recipients. In this study of pediatric infection, we tested the hypothesis that children may tend to progress relatively slowly if either they themselves possess one of the protective HLA-B alleles or the mother possesses one of these alleles, thereby transmitting a low-fitness virus to the child. We analyzed HLA type, CD8+ T-cell responses, and viral sequence changes for 61 mother-child pairs from Durban, South Africa, who were monitored from birth. Slow progression was significantly associated with the mother or child possessing one of the protective HLA-B alleles, and more significantly so when the protective allele was not shared by mother and child (P = 0.007). Slow progressors tended to make CD8+ T-cell responses to Gag epitopes presented by the protective HLA-B alleles, in contrast to progressors expressing the same alleles (P = 0.07; Fisher's exact test). Mothers expressing the protective alleles were significantly more likely to transmit escape variants within the Gag epitopes presented by those alleles than mothers not expressing those alleles (75% versus 21%; P = 0.001). Reversion of transmitted escape mutations was observed in all slow-progressing children whose mothers possessed protective HLA-B alleles. These data show that HLA class I alleles influence disease progression in pediatric as well as adult infection, both as a result of the CD8+ T-cell responses generated in the child and through the transmission of low-fitness viruses by the mother.
PMCID: PMC2748050  PMID: 19605475
20.  HLA Footprints on Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Are Associated with Interclade Polymorphisms and Intraclade Phylogenetic Clustering▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(9):4605-4615.
The selection of escape mutations has a major impact on immune control of infections with viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Viral evasion of CD8+ T-cell responses leaves predictable combinations of escape mutations, termed HLA “footprints.” The most clearly defined footprints are those associated with HLA alleles that are linked with successful control of HIV, such as HLA-B*57. Here we investigated the extent to which HLA footprint sites in HIV type 1 (HIV-1) are associated with viral evolution among and within clades. First, we examined the extent to which amino acid differences between HIV-1 clades share identity with sites of HLA-mediated selection pressure and observed a strong association, in particular with respect to sites of HLA-B selection (P < 10−6). Similarly, the sites of amino acid variability within a clade were found to overlap with sites of HLA-selected mutation. Second, we studied the impact of HLA selection on interclade phylogeny. Removing the sites of amino acid variability did not significantly affect clade-specific clustering, reflecting the central role of founder effects in establishing distinct clades. However, HLA footprints may underpin founder strains, and we show that amino acid substitutions between clades alter phylogeny, underlining a potentially substantial role for HLA in driving ongoing viral evolution. Finally, we investigated the impact of HLA selection on within-clade phylogeny and demonstrate that even a single HLA allele footprint can result in significant phylogenetic clustering of sequences. In conclusion, these data highlight the fact that HLA can be a strong selection force for both intra- and interclade HIV evolution at a population level.
PMCID: PMC2668443  PMID: 19244334
21.  Central Role of Reverting Mutations in HLA Associations with Human Immunodeficiency Virus Set Point▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(17):8548-8559.
Much uncertainty still exists over what T-cell responses need to be induced by an effective human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine. Previous studies have hypothesized that the effective CD8+ T-cell responses are those driving the selection of escape mutations that reduce viral fitness and therefore revert posttransmission. In this study, we adopted a novel approach to define better the role of reverting escape mutations in immune control of HIV infection. This analysis of sequences from 710 study subjects with chronic C-clade HIV type 1 infection demonstrates the importance of mutations that impose a fitness cost in the control of viremia. Consistent with previous studies, the viral set points associated with each HLA-B allele are strongly correlated with the number of Gag-specific polymorphisms associated with the relevant HLA-B allele (r = −0.56, P = 0.0034). The viral set points associated with each HLA-C allele were also strongly correlated with the number of Pol-specific polymorphisms associated with the relevant HLA-C allele (r = −0.67, P = 0.0047). However, critically, both these correlations were dependent solely on the polymorphisms identified as reverting. Therefore, despite the inevitable evolution of viral escape, viremia can be controlled through the selection of mutations that are detrimental to viral fitness. The significance of these results is in highlighting the rationale for an HIV vaccine that can induce these broad responses.
PMCID: PMC2519667  PMID: 18596105
22.  Transmission of HIV-1 Gag immune escape mutations is associated with reduced viral load in linked recipients 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2008;205(5):1009-1017.
In a study of 114 epidemiologically linked Zambian transmission pairs, we evaluated the impact of human leukocyte antigen class I (HLA-I)–associated amino acid polymorphisms, presumed to reflect cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) escape in Gag and Nef of the virus transmitted from the chronically infected donor, on the plasma viral load (VL) in matched recipients 6 mo after infection. CTL escape mutations in Gag and Nef were seen in the donors, which were subsequently transmitted to recipients, largely unchanged soon after infection. We observed a significant correlation between the number of Gag escape mutations targeted by specific HLA-B allele–restricted CTLs and reduced VLs in the recipients. This negative correlation was most evident in newly infected individuals, whose HLA alleles were unable to effectively target Gag and select for CTL escape mutations in this gene. Nef mutations in the donor had no impact on VL in the recipient. Thus, broad Gag-specific CTL responses capable of driving virus escape in the donor may be of clinical benefit to both the donor and recipient. In addition to their direct implications for HIV-1 vaccine design, these data suggest that CTL-induced viral polymorphisms and their associated in vivo viral fitness costs could have a significant impact on HIV-1 pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2373834  PMID: 18426987
23.  HLA Class I-Driven Evolution of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Subtype C Proteome: Immune Escape and Viral Load ▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(13):6434-6446.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) mutations that confer escape from cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) recognition can sometimes result in lower viral fitness. These mutations can then revert upon transmission to a new host in the absence of CTL-mediated immune selection pressure restricted by the HLA alleles of the prior host. To identify these potentially critical recognition points on the virus, we assessed HLA-driven viral evolution using three phylogenetic correction methods across full HIV-1 subtype C proteomes from a cohort of 261 South Africans and identified amino acids conferring either susceptibility or resistance to CTLs. A total of 558 CTL-susceptible and -resistant HLA-amino acid associations were identified and organized into 310 immunological sets (groups of individual associations related to a single HLA/epitope combination). Mutations away from seven susceptible residues, including four in Gag, were associated with lower plasma viral-RNA loads (q < 0.2 [where q is the expected false-discovery rate]) in individuals with the corresponding HLA alleles. The ratio of susceptible to resistant residues among those without the corresponding HLA alleles varied in the order Vpr > Gag > Rev > Pol > Nef > Vif > Tat > Env > Vpu (Fisher's exact test; P ≤ 0.0009 for each comparison), suggesting the same ranking of fitness costs by genes associated with CTL escape. Significantly more HLA-B (χ2; P = 3.59 × 10−5) and HLA-C (χ2; P = 4.71 × 10−6) alleles were associated with amino acid changes than HLA-A, highlighting their importance in driving viral evolution. In conclusion, specific HIV-1 residues (enriched in Vpr, Gag, and Rev) and HLA alleles (particularly B and C) confer susceptibility to the CTL response and are likely to be important in the development of vaccines targeted to decrease the viral load.
PMCID: PMC2447109  PMID: 18434400
24.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Specific CD8+ T-Cell Activity Is Detectable from Birth in the Majority of In Utero-Infected Infants▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(23):12775-12784.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected infants in sub-Saharan Africa typically progress to AIDS or death by 2 years of life in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. This rapid progression to HIV disease has been related to immaturity of the adaptive immune response in infants. We screened 740 infants born to HIV-infected mothers and tracked development and specificity of HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell responses in 63 HIV-infected infants identified using gamma interferon enzyme-linked immunospot assays and intracellular cytokine staining. Forty-four in utero-infected and 19 intrapartum-infected infants were compared to 45 chronically infected children >2 years of age. Seventy percent (14 of 20) in utero-infected infants tested within the first week of life demonstrated HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell responses. Gag, Pol, and Nef were the principally targeted regions in chronic pediatric infection. However, Env dominated the overall response in one-third (12/36) of the acutely infected infants, compared to only 2/45 (4%) of chronically infected children (P = 0.00083). Gag-specific CD4+ T-cell responses were minimal to undetectable in the first 6 months of pediatric infection. These data indicate that failure to control HIV replication in in utero-infected infants is not due to an inability to induce responses but instead suggest secondary failure of adaptive immunity in containing this infection. Moreover, the detection of virus-specific CD8+ T-cell responses in the first days of life in most in utero-infected infants is encouraging for HIV vaccine interventions in infants.
PMCID: PMC2169079  PMID: 17881456
25.  Control of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Is Associated with HLA-B*13 and Targeting of Multiple Gag-Specific CD8+ T-Cell Epitopes▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(7):3667-3672.
To better understand relationships between CD8+ T-cell specificity and the immune control of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), we analyzed the role of HLA-B*13, an allele associated with low viremia, in a cohort of 578 C clade-infected individuals in Durban, South Africa. Six novel B*13-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocyte epitopes were defined from analyses of 37 B*13-positive subjects, including three Gag epitopes. These B*13-restricted epitopes contribute to a broad Gag-specific CD8+ response that is associated with the control of viremia. These data are consistent with data from studies of other HLA-class I alleles associated with HIV control that have shown that the targeting of multiple Gag epitopes is associated with relative suppression of viremia.
PMCID: PMC1866034  PMID: 17251285

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