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J Proteome Res. 2011 Nov 4;10(11):5139-49. doi: 10.1021/pr200596r. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

Comprehensive proteomic study identifies serpin and cystatin antiproteases as novel correlates of HIV-1 resistance in the cervicovaginal mucosa of female sex workers.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.


Not all individuals exposed to HIV-1 become infected, and evidence from HIV-1 highly exposed seronegative women (HIV-1-resistant) suggests that mucosal factors in the female genital tract, the first site of contact for the virus, are playing a role. To better understand factors mediating protection from HIV-1, we performed a large clinical study using the tools of systems biology to fully characterize the cervicovaginal mucosa proteome in HIV-1-resistant women. Cervicovaginal lavage fluid was collected from 293 HIV-1-resistant, uninfected, and infected sex workers and analyzed by 2D-LC LTQ-FT-MS. Of the more than 360 unique proteins identified, 41 were differentially abundant (>3-fold cutoff) in HIV-1-resistant women. The majority of over-abundant proteins were antiproteases (>40%), some with described anti-inflammatory and anti-HIV-1 activity. Quantification of specific anti-HIV-1 antiproteases Serpin A1, Serpin A3, and Cystatin B and an epithelial antiprotease A2ML1 found them to be significantly over-abundant in HIV-1-resistant women (p = 0.004; p = 0.046; p = 0.0003; and p = 0.04, respectively). Expression levels were not correlated to sexual practices or other epidemiological factors. Mucosal antiprotease levels correlated with pro-inflammatory cytokine concentration (p = <0.0001), but independently of pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in HIV-1-resistant women including TNF-alpha, IL-1 alpha, IL-1 beta, IL-6, and IL-8. This comprehensive systems biology approach identifies mucosal serpins and cystatins as novel correlates of HIV-1-resistance. This represents the first study characterizing these factors in the female genital tract.

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