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1.  Cocaine Alters Cytokine Profiles in HIV-1-Infected African American Individuals in the DrexelMed HIV/AIDS Genetic Analysis Cohort 
This study evaluated the relationship between illicit drug use and HIV-1 disease severity in HIV-1-infected patients enrolled in the DrexelMed HIV/AIDS Genetic Analysis Cohort. Since, cocaine is known to have immunomodulatory effects, the cytokine profiles of preferential nonusers, cocaine users, and multidrug users were analyzed to understand the effects of cocaine on cytokine modulation and HIV-1 disease severity.
Patients within the cohort were assessed approximately every 6 months for HIV-1 clinical markers and for history of illicit drug, alcohol, and tobacco use. The Luminex human cytokine 30-plex panel was used for cytokine quantitation. Analysis was performed using a newly developed biostatistical model.
Substance abuse was common within the cohort. Utilizing the drug screens at the time of each visit, the subjects in the cohort were categorized as preferential nonusers, cocaine users, or multidrug users. The overall health of the nonuser population was better than that of the cocaine users, with peak and current viral loads in nonusers substantially lower than those in cocaine and multidrug users. Among the 30 cytokines investigated, differential levels were established within the 3 populations. The T-helper 2 cytokines, interleukin-4 and -10, known to play a critical role during HIV-1 infection, were positively associated with increasing cocaine use. Clinical parameters such as latest viral load, CD4+ T-cell counts, and CD4:CD8 ratio were also significantly associated with cocaine use, depending on the statistical model used.
Based on these assessments, cocaine use appears to be associated with more severe HIV-1 disease.
PMCID: PMC4146625  PMID: 24732878
HIV; cocaine; cytokines; drug use; interleukin-4; interleukin-10
2.  Bioinformatic Analysis of HIV-1 Entry and Pathogenesis 
Current HIV research  2014;12(2):132-161.
The evolution of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) with respect to co-receptor utilization has been shown to be relevant to HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease. The CCR5-utilizing (R5) virus has been shown to be important in the very early stages of transmission and highly prevalent during asymptomatic infection and chronic disease. In addition, the R5 virus has been proposed to be involved in neuroinvasion and central nervous system (CNS) disease. In contrast, the CXCR4-utilizing (X4) virus is more prevalent during the course of disease progression and concurrent with the loss of CD4+ T cells. The dual-tropic virus is able to utilize both co-receptors (CXCR4 and CCR5) and has been thought to represent an intermediate transitional virus that possesses properties of both X4 and R5 viruses that can be encountered at many stages of disease. The use of computational tools and bioinformatic approaches in the prediction of HIV-1 co-receptor usage has been growing in importance with respect to understanding HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease, developing diagnostic tools, and improving the efficacy of therapeutic strategies focused on blocking viral entry. Current strategies have enhanced the sensitivity, specificity, and reproducibility relative to the prediction of co-receptor use; however, these technologies need to be improved with respect to their efficient and accurate use across the HIV-1 subtypes. The most effective approach may center on the combined use of different algorithms involving sequences within and outside of the env-V3 loop. This review focuses on the HIV-1 entry process and on co-receptor utilization, including bioinformatic tools utilized in the prediction of co-receptor usage. It also provides novel preliminary analyses for enabling identification of linkages between amino acids in V3 with other components of the HIV-1 genome and demonstrates that these linkages are different between X4 and R5 viruses.
PMCID: PMC4382797  PMID: 24862329
CCR5; coreceptor; CXCR4; HIV; mutual information; PSSM
3.  Defining Differential Genetic Signatures in CXCR4- and the CCR5-Utilizing HIV-1 Co-Linear Sequences 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107389.
The adaptation of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) to an array of physiologic niches is advantaged by the plasticity of the viral genome, encoded proteins, and promoter. CXCR4-utilizing (X4) viruses preferentially, but not universally, infect CD4+ T cells, generating high levels of virus within activated HIV-1-infected T cells that can be detected in regional lymph nodes and peripheral blood. By comparison, the CCR5-utilizing (R5) viruses have a greater preference for cells of the monocyte-macrophage lineage; however, while R5 viruses also display a propensity to enter and replicate in T cells, they infect a smaller percentage of CD4+ T cells in comparison to X4 viruses. Additionally, R5 viruses have been associated with viral transmission and CNS disease and are also more prevalent during HIV-1 disease. Specific adaptive changes associated with X4 and R5 viruses were identified in co-linear viral sequences beyond the Env-V3. The in silico position-specific scoring matrix (PSSM) algorithm was used to define distinct groups of X4 and R5 sequences based solely on sequences in Env-V3. Bioinformatic tools were used to identify genetic signatures involving specific protein domains or long terminal repeat (LTR) transcription factor sites within co-linear viral protein R (Vpr), trans-activator of transcription (Tat), or LTR sequences that were preferentially associated with X4 or R5 Env-V3 sequences. A number of differential amino acid and nucleotide changes were identified across the co-linear Vpr, Tat, and LTR sequences, suggesting the presence of specific genetic signatures that preferentially associate with X4 or R5 viruses. Investigation of the genetic relatedness between X4 and R5 viruses utilizing phylogenetic analyses of complete sequences could not be used to definitively and uniquely identify groups of R5 or X4 sequences; in contrast, differences in the genetic diversities between X4 and R5 were readily identified within these co-linear sequences in HIV-1-infected patients.
PMCID: PMC4180074  PMID: 25265194
4.  Impact of Tat Genetic Variation on HIV-1 Disease 
Advances in Virology  2012;2012:123605.
The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) promoter or long-terminal repeat (LTR) regulates viral gene expression by interacting with multiple viral and host factors. The viral transactivator protein Tat plays an important role in transcriptional activation of HIV-1 gene expression. Functional domains of Tat and its interaction with transactivation response element RNA and cellular transcription factors have been examined. Genetic variation within tat of different HIV-1 subtypes has been shown to affect the interaction of the viral transactivator with cellular and/or viral proteins, influencing the overall level of transcriptional activation as well as its action as a neurotoxic protein. Consequently, the genetic variability within tat may impact the molecular architecture of functional domains of the Tat protein that may impact HIV pathogenesis and disease. Tat as a therapeutic target for anti-HIV drugs has also been discussed.
PMCID: PMC3414192  PMID: 22899925
5.  Development of co-selected single nucleotide polymorphisms in the viral promoter precedes the onset of human immunodeficiency virus type 1-associated neurocognitive impairment 
Journal of neurovirology  2011;17(1):92-109.
The long terminal repeat (LTR) regulates gene expression of HIV-1 by interacting with multiple host and viral factors. Cross-sectional studies in the pre-HAART era demonstrated that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in peripheral blood-derived LTRs (a C-to-T change at position 3 of C/EBP site I (3T) and at position 5 of Sp site III (5T)) increased in frequency as disease severity increased. Additionally, the 3T variant correlated with HIV-1-associated dementia. LTR sequences derived by longitudinal sampling of peripheral blood from a single patient in the DrexelMed HIV/AIDS Genetic Analysis Cohort resulted in the detection of the 3T and 5T co-selected SNPs before the onset of neurologic impairment, demonstrating that these SNPs may be useful in predicting HIV-associated neurological complications. The relative fitness of the LTRs containing the 3T and/or 5T co-selected SNPs as they evolve in their native patient-derived LTR backbone structure demonstrated a spectrum of basal and Tat-mediated transcriptional activities using the IIIB-derived Tat and colinear Tat derived from the same molecular clone containing the 3T/5T LTR SNP. In silico predictions utilizing colinear envelope sequence suggested that the patient’s virus evolved from an X4 to an R5 swarm prior to the development of neurological complications and more advanced HIV disease. These results suggest that the HIV-1 genomic swarm may evolve during the course of disease in response to selective pressures that lead to changes in prevalence of specific polymorphisms in the LTR, env, and/or tat that could predict the onset of neurological disease and result in alterations in viral function.
PMCID: PMC3057211  PMID: 21225391
6.  Construction of a Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Mutant with Only a Three-Nucleotide Change in the Branchpoint Region of the Latency-Associated Transcript (LAT) and the Stability of Its Two-Kilobase LAT Intron 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(22):12097-12106.
Previous studies using a eukaryotic expression system indicated that the unusual stability of the latency-associated transcript (LAT) intron was due to its nonconsensus branchpoint sequence (T.-T Wu, Y.-H. Su, T. M. Block, and J. M. Taylor, Virology, 243:140-149, 1998). The present study investigated the role of the branchpoint sequence in the stability of the intron expressed from the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) genome and the role of LAT intron stability in the HSV-1 life cycle. A branchpoint mutant called Sy2 and the corresponding rescued viruses, SyRA and SyRB, were constructed. To preserve the coding sequence of the immediate early gene icp0, which overlaps with the branchpoint region of the 2-kb LAT, a 3-nucleotide mutation into the branchpoint region of the 2-kb LAT was introduced, resulting in a branchpoint that is 85% identical to the consensus intron branchpoint sequence of eukaryotic cells. As anticipated, there was a 90- to 96-fold reduction in 2-kb LAT accumulation following productive infection in tissue culture and latent infection in mice with Sy2, as determined by Northern blot analysis. These results clearly suggest that the accumulation of the 2-kb intron in tissue culture and in vivo is, at least in part, due to the nonconsensus branchpoint sequence of the LAT intron. Interestingly, a failure to accumulate LAT was associated with greater progeny production of Sy2 at a low multiplicity of infection (0.01) in tissue culture, but not in mice. However, the ability of mutant Sy2 to reactivate from trigeminal ganglia (TG) derived from latently infected mice was indistinguishable from that of wild-type virus, as assayed in the mouse TG explant reactivation system.
PMCID: PMC525071  PMID: 15507596

Results 1-6 (6)