Use of antiretroviral-based microbicides for HIV-1 prophylaxis could introduce a transmission barrier that inadvertently facilitates the selection of fitter viral variants among incident infections. To investigate this, we assessed the in vitro function of gag-protease and nef sequences from participants who acquired HIV-1 during the CAPRISA 004 1% tenofovir microbicide gel trial.
Methods and Results
We isolated the earliest available gag-protease and nef gene sequences from 83 individuals and examined their in vitro function using recombinant viral replication capacity assays and surface protein downregulation assays, respectively. No major phylogenetic clustering and no significant differences in gag-protease or nef function were observed in participants who received tenofovir gel versus placebo gel prophylaxis.
Results indicate that the partial protective effects of 1% tenofovir gel use in the CAPRISA 004 trial were not offset by selection of transmitted/early HIV-1 variants with enhanced Gag-Protease or Nef fitness.
Alterations of the genital mucosal barrier may influence the number of viruses transmitted from a human immunodeficiency virus–infected source host to the newly infected individual. We used heteroduplex tracking assay and single-genome sequencing to investigate the effect of a tenofovir-based microbicide gel on the transmission bottleneck in women who seroconverted during the CAPRISA 004 microbicide trial. Seventy-seven percent (17 of 22; 95% confidence interval [CI], 56%–90%) of women in the tenofovir gel arm were infected with a single virus compared with 92% (13 of 14; 95% CI, 67%–>99%) in the placebo arm (P = .37). Tenofovir gel had no discernable impact on the transmission bottleneck.
Background. Diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is a public health priority, particularly in regions where the incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is high. In most developing countries, STIs are managed syndromically. We assessed the adequacy of syndromic diagnosis of STIs, compared with laboratory diagnosis of STIs, and evaluated the association between STI diagnosis and the risk of HIV acquisition in a cohort of high-risk women.
Methods. HIV-uninfected high-risk women (n = 242) were followed for 24 months. Symptoms of STIs were recorded, and laboratory diagnosis of common STI pathogens was conducted every 6 months. Forty-two cytokines were measured by Luminex in cervicovaginal lavage specimens at enrollment. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection was evaluated monthly.
Results. Only 12.3% of women (25 of 204) who had a laboratory-diagnosed, discharge-causing STI had clinically evident discharge. Vaginal discharge was thus a poor predictor of laboratory-diagnosed STIs (sensitivity, 12.3%; specificity, 93.8%). Cervicovaginal cytokine concentrations did not differ between women with asymptomatic STIs and those with symptomatic STIs and were elevated in women with asymptomatic STIs, compared with women with no STIs or bacterial vaginosis. Although laboratory-diagnosed STIs were associated with increased risk of HIV infection (hazard ratio, 3.3 [95% confidence interval, 1.5–7.2)], clinical symptoms were not.
Conclusions. Syndromic STI diagnosis dependent on vaginal discharge was poorly predictive of laboratory-diagnosed STI. Laboratory-diagnosed STIs were associated with increased susceptibility to HIV acquisition, while vaginal discharge was not.
Certain immune-driven mutations in HIV-1, such as those arising in p24Gag, decrease viral replicative capacity. However, the intersubtype differences in the replicative consequences of such mutations have not been explored. In HIV-1 subtype B, the p24Gag M250I mutation is a rare variant (0.6%) that is enriched among elite controllers (7.2%) (P = 0.0005) and appears to be a rare escape variant selected by HLA-B58 supertype alleles (P < 0.01). In contrast, in subtype C, it is a relatively common minor polymorphic variant (10 to 15%) whose appearance is not associated with a particular HLA allele. Using site-directed mutant viruses, we demonstrate that M250I reduces in vitro viral replicative capacity in both subtype B and subtype C sequences. However, whereas in subtype C downstream compensatory mutations at p24Gag codons 252 and 260 reduce the adverse effects of M250I, fitness costs in subtype B appear difficult to restore. Indeed, patient-derived subtype B sequences harboring M250I exhibited in vitro replicative defects, while those from subtype C did not. The structural implications of M250I were predicted by protein modeling to be greater in subtype B versus C, providing a potential explanation for its lower frequency and enhanced replicative defects in subtype B. In addition to accounting for genetic differences between HIV-1 subtypes, the design of cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte-based vaccines may need to account for differential effects of host-driven viral evolution on viral fitness.
The generation of polyfunctional CD8+ T cells, in response to vaccination or natural infection, has been associated with improved protective immunity. However, it is unclear whether the maintenance of polyfunctionality is related to particular cellular phenotypic characteristics. To determine whether the cytokine expression profile is linked to the memory differentiation stage, we analyzed the degree of polyfunctionality of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells within different memory subpopulations in 20 ART-naïve HIV-1 infected individuals at approximately 34 weeks post infection. These profiles were compared with CMV-specific CD8+ T cell responses in HIV-uninfected controls and in individuals chronically infected with HIV. Our results showed that the polyfunctional abilities of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells differed according to their memory phenotype. Early-differentiated cells (CD45RO+CD27+) exhibited a higher proportion of cells positive for three or four functions (p<0.001), and a lower proportion of mono-functional cells (p<0.001) compared to terminally-differentiated (CD45RO−CD27−) HIV-specific CD8+ T cells. The majority of terminally-differentiated HIV-specific CD8+ T cells were mono-functional (median 69% [IQR: 57–83]), producing predominantly CD107a or MIP1β. Moreover, proportions of HIV-specific mono-functional CD8+ T cells positively associated with proportions of terminally-differentiated HIV-specific CD8+ T cells (p=0.019, r=0.54). In contrast, CMV-specific CD8+ T cell polyfunctional capacities were similar across all memory subpopulations, with terminally- and early-differentiated cells endowed with comparable polyfunctionality. Overall, these data show that the polyfunctional abilities of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells are influenced by the stage of memory differentiation, which is not the case for CMV-specific responses.
Cameroon, in west central Africa, has an extraordinary degree of HIV diversity, presenting a major challenge for the development of an effective HIV vaccine. Given the continuing need to closely monitor the emergence of new HIV variants in the country, we analyzed HIV-1 genetic diversity in 59 plasma samples from HIV-infected Cameroonian blood donors. Full length HIV gag and nef sequences were generated and phylogenetic analyses were performed.
All gag and nef sequences clustered within HIV-1M. Circulating recombinant form CRF02_AG predominated, accounting for 50% of the studied infections, followed by clade G (11%), clade D and CRF37_cpx (4% each), and clades A, F, CRF01_AE and CRF36_cpx (2% each). In addition, 22% of the studied viruses apparently had nef and gag genes from viruses belonging to different clades, with the majority (8/10) having either a nef or gag gene derived from CRF02_AG. Interestingly, five gag sequences (10%) and three (5%) nef sequences were neither obviously recombinant nor easily classifiable into any of the known HIV-1M clades.
This suggests the widespread existence of highly divergent HIV lineages in Cameroon. While the genetic complexity of the Cameroonian HIV-1 epidemic has potentially serious implications for the design of biomedical interventions, detailed analyses of divergent Cameroonian HIV-1M lineages could be crucial for dissecting the earliest evolutionary steps in the emergence of HIV-1M.
HIV-1 diversity; West central Africa; RDP3; Maximum likelihood; PHYML
Background. The biggest challenge in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) prevention in Africa is the high HIV-1 burden in young women. In macaques, proinflammatory cytokine production in the genital tract is necessary for target cell recruitment and establishment of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection following vaginal inoculation. The purpose of this study was to assess if genital inflammation during early HIV-1 infection predisposes women to rapid disease progression.
Methods. Inflammatory cytokine concentrations were measured in cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) from 49 women 6, 17, 30, and 55 weeks after HIV-1 infection and from 22 of these women before infection. Associations between genital inflammation and viral load set point and blood CD4 cell counts 12 months after infection were investigated.
Results. Elevated genital cytokine concentrations 6 and 17 weeks after HIV-1 infection were associated with higher viral load set points and, to a lesser extent, with CD4 depletion. CVL cytokine concentrations during early infection did not differ relative to preinfection but were elevated in women who had vaginal discharge, detectable HIV-1 RNA in their genital tracts, and lower blood CD4 counts.
Conclusion. Genital inflammation during early HIV-1 infection was associated with higher viral load set point and CD4 depletion, which are markers of rapid disease progression. Strategies aimed at reducing genital inflammation during early HIV-1 infection may slow disease progression.
HIV-1 accumulates mutations in and around reactive epitopes to escape recognition and killing by CD8+ T cells. Measurements of HIV-1 time to escape should therefore provide information on which parameters are most important for T cell–mediated in vivo control of HIV-1. Primary HIV-1–specific T cell responses were fully mapped in 17 individuals, and the time to virus escape, which ranged from days to years, was measured for each epitope. While higher magnitude of an individual T cell response was associated with more rapid escape, the most significant T cell measure was its relative immunodominance measured in acute infection. This identified subject-level or “vertical” immunodominance as the primary determinant of in vivo CD8+ T cell pressure in HIV-1 infection. Conversely, escape was slowed significantly by lower population variability, or entropy, of the epitope targeted. Immunodominance and epitope entropy combined to explain half of all the variability in time to escape. These data explain how CD8+ T cells can exert significant and sustained HIV-1 pressure even when escape is very slow and that within an individual, the impacts of other T cell factors on HIV-1 escape should be considered in the context of immunodominance.
Neutralizing antibodies are likely to play a crucial part in a preventative HIV-1 vaccine. Although efforts to elicit broadly cross-neutralizing (BCN) antibodies by vaccination have been unsuccessful1-3, a minority of individuals naturally develop these antibodies after many years of infection4-7. How such antibodies arise, and the role of viral evolution in shaping these responses, is unknown. Here we show, in two HIV-1–infected individuals who developed BCN antibodies targeting the glycan at Asn332 on the gp120 envelope, that this glycan was absent on the initial infecting virus. However, this BCN epitope evolved within 6 months, through immune escape from earlier strain-specific antibodies that resulted in a shift of a glycan to position 332. Both viruses that lacked the glycan at amino acid 332 were resistant to the Asn332-dependent BCN monoclonal antibody PGT128 (ref. 8), whereas escaped variants that acquired this glycan were sensitive. Analysis of large sequence and neutralization data sets showed the 332 glycan to be significantly underrepresented in transmitted subtype C viruses compared to chronic viruses, with the absence of this glycan corresponding with resistance to PGT128. These findings highlight the dynamic interplay between early antibodies and viral escape in driving the evolution of conserved BCN antibody epitopes.
Previously, we determined the incidence of dual infections in a South African cohort and its association with higher viral setpoint. Ten years later, we compare the incidence and impact of dual infections at transmission on viral setpoint in a geographically similar cohort (n = 46) making use of both the heteroduplex mobility assay (HMA) and the more recent single genome amplification (SGA) approach. HIV incidence was lower in this cohort (7% compared to 18%), and we find a similar reduction in the number of dual infections (9% compared to 19%). Unlike the previous study, there was no association between either dual infection (n = 4) or multivariant transmission (n = 7) and disease progression. This study emphasized the importance of monitoring changes in the HIV epidemic as it may have important ramifications on our understanding of the natural history of disease.
Purpose of review
To provide an update on the origin of the HIV epidemic and insights into how the immune response is shaping virus evolution.
Characterization of archival samples showed that by the 1960s, HIV had already diverged within humans. It is now estimated that HIV has been in humans since at least the early 1900s. However, despite the potential for different divergent viruses to spread, surprisingly few viruses successfully expanded to cause the global epidemic. In approximately 80% of cases, productive infection is the result of infection with only a single virus or single virus-infected cell. After transmission, HIV evolves at a rapid rate driven by the immune pressure until the virus reaches a delicate survival balance: on one hand avoiding elimination through the development of cytotoxic T-cell immune escape mutations, and on the other sacrificing replication fitness as these mutations may come with a severe fitness cost to the virus. People infected with these ‘attenuated’ cytotoxic T-cell escape viruses can have a survival advantage. Cytotoxic T-cell responses are molding HIV diversity at a population level resulting in a loss of some of the common immune epitopes.
Insights into the origin of HIV and its evolution between populations and within individuals is essential to understanding HIV pathogenesis and imperative for the design of effective biomedical interventions such as vaccines.
CTL escape; HIV evolution; origin; pathogenesis; reversion; transmission
Low- to middle-income countries bear the overwhelming burden of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) epidemic in terms of the numbers of their citizens living with HIV/AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), the high degrees of viral diversity often involving multiple HIV-1 clades circulating within their populations, and the social and economic factors that compromise current control measures. Distinct epidemics have emerged in different geographical areas. These epidemics differ in their severity, the population groups they affect, their associated risk behaviors, and the viral strains that drive them. In addition to inflicting great human cost, the high burden of HIV infection has a major impact on the social and economic development of many low- to middle-income countries. Furthermore, the high degrees of viral diversity associated with multiclade HIV epidemics impacts viral diagnosis and pathogenicity and treatment and poses daunting challenges for effective vaccine development.
A human immunodeficiency type 1 vaccine may be the most effective method of controlling the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome pandemic. However, the higher degrees of viral diversity in lower-income countries may undermine vaccine development efforts.
An understanding of how broadly neutralizing activity develops in HIV-1-infected individuals is needed to guide vaccine design and immunization strategies. Here we used a large panel of 44 HIV-1 envelope variants (subtypes A, B, and C) to evaluate the presence of broadly neutralizing antibodies in serum samples obtained 3 years after seroconversion from 40 women enrolled in the CAPRISA 002 acute infection cohort. Seven of 40 participants had serum antibodies that neutralized more than 40% of viruses tested and were considered to have neutralization breadth. Among the samples with breadth, CAP257 serum neutralized 82% (36/44 variants) of the panel, while CAP256 serum neutralized 77% (33/43 variants) of the panel. Analysis of longitudinal samples showed that breadth developed gradually starting from year 2, with the number of viruses neutralized as well as the antibody titer increasing over time. Interestingly, neutralization breadth peaked at 4 years postinfection, with no increase thereafter. The extent of cross-neutralizing activity correlated with CD4+ T cell decline, viral load, and CD4+ T cell count at 6 months postinfection but not at later time points, suggesting that early events set the stage for the development of breadth. However, in a multivariate analysis, CD4 decline was the major driver of this association, as viral load was not an independent predictor of breadth. Mapping of the epitopes targeted by cross-neutralizing antibodies revealed that in one individual these antibodies recognized the membrane-proximal external region (MPER), while in two other individuals, cross-neutralizing activity was adsorbed by monomeric gp120 and targeted epitopes that involved the N-linked glycan at position 332 in the C3 region. Serum antibodies from the other four participants targeted quaternary epitopes, at least 2 of which were PG9/16-like and depended on the N160 and/or L165 residue in the V2 region. These data indicate that fewer than 20% of HIV-1 subtype C-infected individuals develop antibodies with cross-neutralizing activity after 3 years of infection and that these antibodies target different regions of the HIV-1 envelope, including as yet uncharacterized epitopes.
The genetic diversity of HIV-1 across the globe is a major challenge for developing an HIV vaccine. To facilitate immunogen design, it is important to characterize clusters of commonly targeted T-cell epitopes across different HIV clades. To address this, we examined 39 HIV-1 clade C infected individuals for IFN-γ Gag-specific T-cell responses using five sets of overlapping peptides, two sets matching clade C vaccine candidates derived from strains from South Africa and China, and three peptide sets corresponding to consensus clades A, B, and D sequences. The magnitude and breadth of T-cell responses against the two clade C peptide sets did not differ, however clade C peptides were preferentially recognized compared to the other peptide sets. A total of 84 peptides were recognized, of which 19 were exclusively from clade C, 8 exclusively from clade B, one peptide each from A and D and 17 were commonly recognized by clade A, B, C and D. The entropy of the exclusively recognized peptides was significantly higher than that of commonly recognized peptides (p = 0.0128) and the median peptide processing scores were significantly higher for the peptide variants recognized versus those not recognized (p = 0.0001). Consistent with these results, the predicted Major Histocompatibility Complex Class I IC50 values were significantly lower for the recognized peptide variants compared to those not recognized in the ELISPOT assay (p<0.0001), suggesting that peptide variation between clades, resulting in lack of cross-clade recognition, has been shaped by host immune selection pressure. Overall, our study shows that clade C infected individuals recognize clade C peptides with greater frequency and higher magnitude than other clades, and that a selection of highly conserved epitope regions within Gag are commonly recognized and give rise to cross-clade reactivities.
The targets of broadly cross-neutralizing (BCN) antibodies are of great interest in the HIV vaccine field. We have identified a subtype C HIV-1-superinfected individual, CAP256, with high-level BCN activity, and characterized the antibody specificity mediating breadth. CAP256 developed potent BCN activity peaking at 3 years postinfection, neutralizing 32 (76%) of 42 heterologous viruses, with titers of antibodies against some viruses exceeding 1:10,000. CAP256 showed a subtype bias, preferentially neutralizing subtype C and A viruses over subtype B viruses. CAP256 BCN serum targeted a quaternary epitope which included the V1V2 region. Further mapping identified residues F159, N160, L165, R166, D167, K169, and K171 (forming the FN/LRD-K-K motif) in the V2 region as crucial to the CAP256 epitope. However, the fine specificity of the BCN response varied over time and, while consistently dependent on R166 and K169, became gradually less dependent on D167 and K171, possibly contributing to the incremental increase in breadth over 4 years. The presence of an intact FN/LRD-K-K motif in heterologous viruses was associated with sensitivity, although the length of the adjacent V1 loop modulated the degree of sensitivity, with a shorter V1 region significantly associated with higher titers. Repair of the FN/LRD-K-K motif in resistant heterologous viruses conferred sensitivity, with titers sometimes exceeding 1:10,000. Comparison of the CAP256 epitope with that of the PG9/PG16 monoclonal antibodies suggested that these epitopes overlapped, adding to the mounting evidence that this may represent a common neutralization target that should be further investigated as a potential vaccine candidate.
The viral load setpoint (VLS) is an important predictor of HIV disease progression, but there is a lack of information regarding the VLS and its possible determinants in African populations.
Initially HIV negative adults from three distinct groups (female barworkers, females and males from the general population) were followed for up to four years. The VLS was calculated for 108 seroconverters and associations of the VLS with possible risk factors were analyzed using univariate and multivariate regression.
The median VLS for female barworkers, females and males from the general population were 69,850, 28,600 and 158,000 RNA copies/ml respectively. Significant associations with an elevated viral load were observed for male gender (Risk Ratio (RR)=1.83, 95% confidence interval (95%CI)=1.14–2.93), the expression of harmful HLA I alleles (RR=1.73, 95%CI=1.13–2.66) and multiple infection with different HIV-1 subtypes (RR=1.65, 95%CI =1.03–2.66). Barworkers were considerably more often infected with different HIV-1 subtypes than participants from the general population.
Our study confirms that gender and the expression of different HLA class I alleles are important determinants of the viremia at VLS and it also corroborates an earlier finding that multiple infection with different HIV-1 subtypes is associated with a higher VLS.
HIV-1 infection; Acute infection; Viral load setpoint; Multiple infection; HLA class I alleles; Africa
The Capripoxvirus, Lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV) has a restricted host-range and is being investigated as a novel HIV-1 vaccine vector. LSDV does not complete its replication cycle in non-ruminant hosts.
The safety of LSDV was tested at doses of 104 and 106 plaque forming units in two strains of immunocompromised mice, namely RAG mice and CD4 T cell knockout mice. LSDV expressing HIV-1 subtype C Gag, reverse transcriptase (RT), Tat and Nef as a polyprotein (Grttn), (rLSDV-grttn), was constructed. The immunogenicity of rLSDV-grttn was tested in homologous prime-boost regimens as well as heterologous prime-boost regimes in combination with a DNA vaccine (pVRC-grttn) or modified vaccinia Ankara vaccine (rMVA-grttn) both expressing Grttn.
Safety was demonstrated in two strains of immunocompromised mice.
In the immunogenicity experiments mice developed high magnitudes of HIV-specific cells producing IFN-gamma and IL-2. A comparison of rLSDV-grttn and rMVA-grttn to boost a DNA vaccine (pVRC-grttn) indicated a DNA prime and rLSDV-grttn boost induced a 2 fold (p < 0.01) lower cumulative frequency of Gag- and RT-specific IFN-γ CD8 and CD4 cells than a boost with rMVA-grttn. However, the HIV-specific cells induced by the DNA vaccine prime rLSDV-grttn boost produced greater than 3 fold (p < 0.01) more IFN- gamma than the HIV-specific cells induced by the DNA vaccine prime rMVA-grttn boost. A boost of HIV-specific CD4 cells producing IL-2 was only achieved with the DNA vaccine prime and rLSDV-grttn boost. Heterologous prime-boost combinations of rLSDV-grttn and rMVA-grttn induced similar cumulative frequencies of IFN- gamma producing Gag- and RT-specific CD8 and CD4 cells. A significant difference (p < 0.01) between the regimens was the higher capacity (2.1 fold) of Gag-and RT-specific CD4 cells to produce IFN-γ with a rMVA-grttn prime - rLSDV-grttn boost. This regimen also induced a 1.5 fold higher (p < 0.05) frequency of Gag- and RT-specific CD4 cells producing IL-2.
LSDV was demonstrated to be non-pathogenic in immunocompromised mice. The rLSDV-grttn vaccine was immunogenic in mice particularly in prime-boost regimens. The data suggests that this novel vaccine may be useful for enhancing, in particular, HIV-specific CD4 IFN- gamma and IL-2 responses induced by a priming vaccine.
Deciphering immune events during early stages of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection is critical for understanding the course of disease. We characterized the hierarchy of HIV-1-specific T-cell gamma interferon (IFN-γ) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay responses during acute subtype C infection in 53 individuals and associated temporal patterns of responses with disease progression in the first 12 months. There was a diverse pattern of T-cell recognition across the proteome, with the recognition of Nef being immunodominant as early as 3 weeks postinfection. Over the first 6 months, we found that there was a 23% chance of an increased response to Nef for every week postinfection (P = 0.0024), followed by a nonsignificant increase to Pol (4.6%) and Gag (3.2%). Responses to Env and regulatory proteins appeared to remain stable. Three temporal patterns of HIV-specific T-cell responses could be distinguished: persistent, lost, or new. The proportion of persistent T-cell responses was significantly lower (P = 0.0037) in individuals defined as rapid progressors than in those progressing slowly and who controlled viremia. Almost 90% of lost T-cell responses were coincidental with autologous viral epitope escape. Regression analysis between the time to fixed viral escape and lost T-cell responses (r = 0.61; P = 0.019) showed a mean delay of 14 weeks after viral escape. Collectively, T-cell epitope recognition is not a static event, and temporal patterns of IFN-γ-based responses exist. This is due partly to viral sequence variation but also to the recognition of invariant viral epitopes that leads to waves of persistent T-cell immunity, which appears to associate with slower disease progression in the first year of infection.
Both T cell activation during early HIV-1 infection and soluble markers of immune activation during chronic infection are predictive of HIV disease progression. Although the acute phase of HIV infection is associated with increased pro-inflammatory cytokine production, the relationship between cytokine concentrations and HIV pathogenesis is unknown.
To identify cytokine biomarkers measurable in plasma during acute HIV-1 infection that predict HIV disease progression.
Study including 40 South African women who became infected with HIV-1 and were followed longitudinally from the time of infection.
The concentrations of 30 cytokines in plasma from women with acute HIV-1 infection were measured and associations between cytokine levels and both viral load set-point 12 months post-infection and time taken for CD4 counts to fall below 350 cells/μl were determined using multivariate and Cox proportional-hazards regression.
We found that the concentrations of 5 plasma cytokines, IL-12p40, IL-12p70, IFN-γ, IL-7 and IL-15, in women with acute infection predicted 66% of the variation in viral load set-point 12 months post infection. IL-12p40, IL-12p70 and IFN-γ were significantly associated with lower viral load whereas IL-7 and IL-15 were associated with higher viral load. Plasma concentrations of IL-12p40 and GM-CSF during acute infection were associated with maintenance of CD4 counts above 350 cells/μl while IL-1α, eotaxin and IL-7 were associated with more rapid CD4 loss.
A small panel of plasma cytokines during acute HIV-1 infection was predictive of long-term HIV disease prognosis in this group of South African women.
HIV-1; cytokines; acute infection; viral load; disease progression
We report on the frequency of multiple infections, generation of recombinants and consequences on disease progression in 35 HIV-1 infected individuals from 7 monogamous and 6 polygamous partnerships within a Rural Clinical Cohort in Uganda. The env-C2V3, gag-p24 and pol-IN genes were sequenced. Single genome amplified half genome sequences were used to map recombination breakpoints. Three participants were dually infected with subtypes A and D, one case with subtype A and A/D recombinant and the fifth with 2 phylogenetically distinct A/D recombinants. Occurrence of A/D recombination was observed in two multiple infected individuals. Rate of late stage WHO events using Cox regression was 3 times greater amongst multiple infected compared to singly infected individuals (hazard ratio 3.35; 95% CI 1.09, 10.3; p = 0.049). We have shown that polygamous relationships involving subtype discordant partnerships was a major contributor of multiple infections with generation of inter subtype recombinants in our cohort.
HIV-1; Multiple infections; Superinfection; Coinfection; Recombination
Functional studies of HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Envs) commonly include the generation of pseudoviruses, which are produced by co-transfection of rev-vpu-env cassettes with an env-deficient provirus. Here, we describe six Env constructs from transmitted/founder HIV-1 that were defective in the pseudotyping assay, although two produced infectious virions when expressed from their cognate proviruses. All of these constructs exhibited an unusual gene arrangement in which the first exon of rev (rev1) and vpu were in the same reading frame without an intervening stop codon. Disruption of the rev1-vpu fusion gene by frameshift mutation, stop codon, or abrogation of the rev initiation codon restored pseudovirion infectivity. Introduction of the fusion gene into wildtype Env cassettes severely compromised their function. The defect was not due to altered env and rev transcription or a dominant negative effect of the expressed fusion protein, but seemed to be caused by inefficient translation at the env initiation codon. Although the rev1-vpu polymorphism affects Env expression only in vitro, it can cause problems in studies requiring Env complementation, such as analyses of co-receptor usage and neutralization properties, since 3% of subtype A, 20% of subtype C and 5% of CRF01_A/E viruses encode the fusion gene. A solution is to eliminate the rev initiation codon when amplifying rev-vpu-env cassettes since this increases Env expression irrespective of the presence of the polymorphism.
Understanding early immunological events during HIV-1 infection that may set the course of disease progression is important for identifying correlates of viral control. This study explores the association of differentiation profiles of HIV-specific and total memory CD8+ T cells with viral set point. A cohort of 47 HIV-1-infected individuals, with differing viral set points at 12 mo, were recruited during acute infection. We identified that the magnitude of IFN-γ+ T cell responses at 6 mo postinfection did not associate with viral set point at 12 mo. A subset of 16 individuals was further studied to characterize CD8+ T cells for expression patterns of markers for memory differentiation, survival (CD127), senescence (CD57), and negative regulation (programmed death-1). We show that viral control and the predicted tempo of HIV disease progression in the first year of infection was associated with a synchronous differentiation of HIV-specific and total CD8+ memory subpopulations. At 6–9 mo postinfection, those with low viral set points had a significantly higher proportion of early differentiated HIV-specific and total memory CD8+ cells of a central memory (CD45RO+CD27+CCR7+) and intermediate memory (CD45RO−CD27+CCR7−) phenotype. Those with high viral set points possessed significantly larger frequencies of effector memory (CD45RO+CD27−CCR7−) cells. The proportions of memory subsets significantly correlated with CD38+CD8+ T cells. Thus, it is likely that a high Ag burden resulting in generalized immune activation may drive differentiation of HIV-specific and total memory CD8+ T cells.
We previously showed that HIV-1 subtype C viruses elicit potent but highly type-specific neutralizing antibodies (nAb) within the first year of infection. In order to determine the specificity and evolution of these autologous nAbs, we examined neutralization escape in four individuals whose responses against the earliest envelope differed in magnitude and potency. Neutralization escape occurred in all participants, with later viruses showing decreased sensitivity to contemporaneous sera, although they retained sensitivity to new nAb responses. Early nAb responses were very restricted, occurring sequentially and targeting only two regions of the envelope. In V1V2, limited amino acid changes often involving indels or glycans, mediated partial or complete escape, with nAbs targeting the V1V2 region directly in 2 cases. The alpha-2 helix of C3 was also a nAb target, with neutralization escape associated with changes to positively charged residues. In one individual, relatively high titers of anti-C3 nAbs were required to drive genetic escape, taking up to 7 weeks for the resistant variant to predominate. Thereafter titers waned but were still measurable. Development of this single anti-C3 nAb specificity was associated with a 7-fold drop in HIV-1 viral load and a 4-fold rebound as the escape mutation emerged. Overall, our data suggest the development of a very limited number of neutralizing antibody specificities during the early stages of HIV-1 subtype C infection, with temporal fluctuations in specificities as escape occurs. While the mechanism of neutralization escape appears to vary between individuals, the involvement of limited regions suggests there might be common vulnerabilities in the HIV-1 subtype C transmitted envelope.
Most HIV-1 infected individuals develop neutralizing antibodies against their own virus, termed an autologous neutralizing response. It is known that this response exerts pressure on the envelope of HIV, the target of such antibodies, resulting in neutralization escape. Here we have identified the targets of these antibodies and the precise genetic basis of neutralization escape in 4 individuals infected with HIV-1 subtype C. We show that V1V2 is commonly involved in escape, and that the C3 region is also a target in some cases. The latter observation confirms this region is exposed in subtype C, unlike subtype B. We show that neutralization escape is conferred by a few amino acid mutations, some of which are outside the antibody target site. Moreover, escape from these limited specificities even within a single individual occurs via a variety of different pathways involving substitutions, indels and glycan shifts. The finding in 2 individuals that an anti-C3 response developed first, followed by an anti-V1V2 response, suggests there may be specific regions of envelope particularly vulnerable to antibody neutralization. Overall, we propose a mechanistic explanation for how HIV-1 epitopes drive sequential waves of neutralization escape in early subtype C infection.
It is unknown whether patterns of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-specific T-cell responses during acute infection may influence the viral set point and the course of disease. We wished to establish whether the magnitude and breadth of HIV type 1 (HIV-1)-specific T-cell responses at 3 months postinfection were correlated with the viral-load set point at 12 months and hypothesized that the magnitude and breadth of HIV-specific T-cell responses during primary infection would predict the set point. Gamma interferon (IFN-γ) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay responses across the complete proteome were measured in 47 subtype C HIV-1-infected participants at a median of 12 weeks postinfection. When corrected for amino acid length and individuals responding to each region, the order of recognition was as follows: Nef > Gag > Pol > Rev > Vpr > Env > Vpu > Vif > Tat. Nef responses were significantly (P < 0.05) dominant, targeted six epitopic regions, and were unrelated to the course of viremia. There was no significant difference in the magnitude and breadth of responses for each protein region with disease progression, although there was a trend of increased breadth (mean, four to seven pools) in rapid progressors. Correlation of the magnitude and breadth of IFN-γ responses with the viral set point at 12 months revealed almost zero association for each protein region. Taken together, these data demonstrate that the magnitude and breadth of IFN-γ ELISPOT assay responses at 3 months postinfection are unrelated to the course of disease in the first year of infection and are not associated with, and have low predictive power for, the viral set point at 12 months.
The African AIDS Vaccine Programme, formed in 2000, is a network of African HIV vaccine stakeholders, led by Africans across the continent, with a vision of an African continent without AIDS.