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Retrovirology. 2013 Dec 16;10:155. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-10-155.

A consensus surface activation marker signature is partially dependent on human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Nef expression within productively infected macrophages.

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Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University SOM, 600 North Wolfe Street, Meyer 6-181, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.



The high prevalence of HIV-associated comorbidities including neurocognitive disorder, high levels of residual inflammatory mediators in the plasma and cerebrospinal fluid and the resurgence of HIV replication upon interruption of antiviral treatment in HIV-1 infected individuals, strongly suggests that despite therapy HIV persists in its cellular targets which include T-lymphocytes and cells of the myeloid lineage. These reservoirs present a major barrier against eradication efforts. Knowledge of the molecular mechanisms used by HIV to modulate innate macrophage immune responses and impair viral clearance is quite limited. To explore the role of HIV in potentially modulating macrophage function through changes in protein expression, we used single-cell analyses with flow cytometry to determine whether, in unpolarized cultures, macrophage surface marker phenotype was altered by HIV infection in a manner that was independent of host genetic background.


These analyses revealed that at several time points post-infection, GFP + HIV-infected macrophages were significantly enriched in the CD14+ fraction (3 to 5-fold, p = .0001) compared to bystander, or uninfected cells in the same culture. However, the enrichment and higher levels of CD14 on HIV expressing macrophages did not depend on the production of HIV Nef. Sixty to eighty percent of macrophages productively infected with HIV after day 28 post-infection were also enriched in the population of cells expressing the activation markers CD69 (2 to 4-fold, p < .0001) and CD86 (2 to 4-fold, p < .0001 ) but suppressed amounts of CD68 (3 to 10-fold, p < .0001) compared to bystander cells. Interestingly, there was no enrichment of CD69 on the surface of HIV producing cells that lacked Nef or expressed a variant of Nef mutated in its SH3-binding domain.


These findings suggest that HIV actively regulates the expression of a subset of surface molecules involved in innate and inflammatory immune signaling in primary human macrophages through Nef-dependent and Nef-independent mechanisms acting within productively infected cells.

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