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author:("Woodman, enda")
1.  Intersubtype Differences in the Effect of a Rare p24 Gag Mutation on HIV-1 Replicative Fitness 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(24):13423-13433.
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.
PMCID: PMC3503133  PMID: 23015721
2.  Genital Tract Inflammation During Early HIV-1 Infection Predicts Higher Plasma Viral Load Set Point in Women 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;205(2):194-203.
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.
PMCID: PMC3244362  PMID: 22190580
3.  Short Communication Decreased Incidence of Dual Infections in South African Subtype C-Infected Women Compared to a Cohort Ten Years Earlier 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2011;27(11):1167-1172.
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.
PMCID: PMC3206740  PMID: 21198409
4.  HIV molecular epidemiology: transmission and adaptation to human populations 
Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS  2009;4(4):247-252.
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.
Recent findings
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.
PMCID: PMC3351078  PMID: 19532060
CTL escape; HIV evolution; origin; pathogenesis; reversion; transmission
5.  Fluidity of HIV-1-Specific T-Cell Responses during Acute and Early Subtype C HIV-1 Infection and Associations with Early Disease Progression ▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(22):12018-12029.
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.
PMCID: PMC2977870  PMID: 20826686
6.  Extensive purifying selection acting on synonymous sites in HIV-1 Group M sequences 
Virology Journal  2008;5:160.
Positive selection pressure acting on protein-coding sequences is usually inferred when the rate of nonsynonymous substitution is greater than the synonymous rate. However, purifying selection acting directly on the nucleotide sequence can lower the synonymous substitution rate. This could result in false inference of positive selection because when synonymous changes at some sites are under purifying selection, the average synonymous rate is an underestimate of the neutral rate of evolution. Even though HIV-1 coding sequences contain a number of regions that function at the nucleotide level, and are thus likely to be affected by purifying selection, studies of positive selection assume that synonymous substitutions can be used to estimate the neutral rate of evolution.
We modelled site-to-site variation in the synonymous substitution rate across coding regions of the HIV-1 genome. Synonymous substitution rates were found to vary significantly within and between genes. Surprisingly, regions of the genome that encode proteins in more than one frame had significantly higher synonymous substitution rates than regions coding in a single frame. We found evidence of strong purifying selection pressure affecting synonymous mutations in fourteen regions with known functions. These included an exonic splicing enhancer, the rev-responsive element, the poly-purine tract and a transcription factor binding site. A further five highly conserved regions were located within known functional domains. We also found four conserved regions located in env and vpu which have not been characterized previously.
We provide the coordinates of genomic regions with markedly lower synonymous substitution rates, which are putatively under the influence of strong purifying selection pressure at the nucleotide level as well as regions encoding proteins in more than one frame. These regions should be excluded from studies of positive selection acting on HIV-1 coding regions.
PMCID: PMC2666660  PMID: 19105834
7.  Transmission of HIV-1 CTL Escape Variants Provides HLA-Mismatched Recipients with a Survival Advantage 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(3):e1000033.
One of the most important genetic factors known to affect the rate of disease progression in HIV-infected individuals is the genotype at the Class I Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) locus, which determines the HIV peptides targeted by cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs). Individuals with HLA-B*57 or B*5801 alleles, for example, target functionally important parts of the Gag protein. Mutants that escape these CTL responses may have lower fitness than the wild-type and can be associated with slower disease progression. Transmission of the escape variant to individuals without these HLA alleles is associated with rapid reversion to wild-type. However, the question of whether infection with an escape mutant offers an advantage to newly infected hosts has not been addressed. Here we investigate the relationship between the genotypes of transmitted viruses and prognostic markers of disease progression and show that infection with HLA-B*57/B*5801 escape mutants is associated with lower viral load and higher CD4+ counts.
Author Summary
Following infection with HIV, it is well established that a person's genetic makeup is a major determinant of how quickly they will progress to AIDS. Particularly important is the class I Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) gene that is responsible for alerting the immune system to HIV's presence. One of the reasons our immune systems are unable to beat HIV is that the virus can mutate to forms that our HLA genes no longer recognise. However, some people have versions of the HLA gene (for example HLA-B*57 and HLA-B*5801) that are known to force HIV to tolerate mutations that damage its ability to reproduce. Slower HIV reproduction is thought to be one reason that HLA-B*57 and HLA-B*5801 positive people progress to AIDS more slowly than most other HIV infected persons. We report here on a study of HLA-B*57 and HLA-B*5801 negative women in which better control of disease tended to be associated with their being infected with viruses carrying mutations that have been previously shown to reduce replication. These mutations characterise viruses found infecting HLA-B*57 and HLA-B*5801 positive people. This indicates for the first time that HLA-B*57 or HLA-B*5801 negative people that are infected by such reproductively compromised viruses may also experience better survival prospects.
PMCID: PMC2265427  PMID: 18369479

Results 1-7 (7)