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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2012 Jun;28(6):607-18. doi: 10.1089/AID.2011.0021. Epub 2012 Jan 17.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus nef signature sequences are associated with pulmonary hypertension.

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Cardiovascular Pulmonary Research Laboratory, University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado 80045, USA.


Severe pulmonary hypertension (PH) associated with vascular remodeling is a long-term complication of HIV infection (HIV-PH) affecting 1/200 infected individuals vs. 1/200,000 frequency in the uninfected population. Factors accounting for increased PH susceptibility in HIV-infected individuals are unknown. Rhesus macaques infected with chimeric SHIVnef virions but not with SIV display PH-like pulmonary vascular remodeling suggesting that HIV-Nef is associated with PH; these monkeys showed changes in nef sequences that correlated with pathogenesis after passage in vivo. We further examined whether HIV-nef alleles in HIV-PH subjects have signature sequences associated with the disease phenotype. We evaluated specimens from participants with and without HIV-PH from European Registries and validated results with samples collected as part of the Lung-HIV Studies in San Francisco. We found that 10 polymorphisms in nef were overrepresented in blood cells or lung tissue specimens from European HIV-PH individuals but significantly less frequent in HIV-infected individuals without PH. These polymorphisms mapped to known functional domains in Nef. In the validation cohort, 7/10 polymorphisms in the HIV-nef gene were confirmed; these polymorphisms arose independently from viral load, CD4(+) T cell counts, length of infection, and antiretroviral therapy status. Two out of 10 polymorphisms were previously reported in macaques with PH-like pulmonary vascular remodeling. Cloned recombinant Nef proteins from clinical samples down-regulated CD4, suggesting that these primary isolates are functional. This study offers new insights into the association between Nef polymorphisms in functional domains and the HIV-PH phenotype. The utility of these polymorphisms as predictors of PH should be examined in a larger population.

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