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Genes Immun. 2012 Apr;13(3):258-67. doi: 10.1038/gene.2011.76. Epub 2011 Nov 3.

Variations in the heme oxygenase-1 microsatellite polymorphism are associated with plasma CD14 and viral load in HIV-infected African-Americans.

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Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.


Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is an anti-inflammatory enzyme that maintains homeostasis during cellular stress. Given previous findings that shorter length variants of a HO-1 promoter region GT(n) microsatellite polymorphism are associated with increased HO-1 expression in cell lines, we hypothesized that shorter variants would also be associated with increased levels of HO-1 expression, less inflammation and lower levels of inflammation-associated viral replication in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected subjects. Healthy donors (n = 20) with shorter GT(n) repeats had higher HO-1 mRNA transcript in peripheral blood mononuclear cells stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (r = -0.38, P = 0.05). The presence of fewer GT(n) repeats in subjects with untreated HIV disease was associated with higher HO-1 mRNA levels in peripheral blood (r = -0.41, P = 0.02); similar observations were made in CD14(+) monocytes from antiretroviral-treated subjects (r = -0.36, P = 0.04). In African-Americans, but not Caucasians, greater GT(n) repeats were correlated with higher soluble CD14 levels during highly active antiretroviral therapy (r = 0.38, P = 0.007) as well as higher mean viral load off-therapy (r = 0.24, P = 0.04). These data demonstrate that the HO-1 GT(n) microsatellite polymorphism is associated with higher levels of HO-1 expression and that this pathway may have important effects on the association between inflammation and HIV replication.

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