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PLoS One. 2015 Jun 19;10(6):e0129425. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129425. eCollection 2015.

HIV-1 Tat Protein Induces Production of Proinflammatory Cytokines by Human Dendritic Cells and Monocytes/Macrophages through Engagement of TLR4-MD2-CD14 Complex and Activation of NF-κB Pathway.

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INSERM, U1043, Toulouse, France, CNRS, U5282, Toulouse, France; Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse, Toulouse, France; Department of Infectious Diseases, Toulouse University Hospital, Toulouse, France.
Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology, Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, University of California Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, CA, 92697, United States of America; Institute for Immunology, Irvine, CA, 92697, United States of America; Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, University of California Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, CA, 92697, United States of America.


We recently reported that the human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) Tat protein induced the expression of programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) on dendritic cells (DCs) through a TLR4 pathway. However, the underlying mechanisms by which HIV-1 Tat protein induces the abnormal hyper-activation of the immune system seen in HIV-1 infected patients remain to be fully elucidated. In the present study, we report that HIV-1 Tat protein induced the production of significant amounts of the pro-inflammatory IL-6 and IL-8 cytokines by DCs and monocytes from both healthy and HIV-1 infected patients. Such production was abrogated in the presence of anti-TLR4 blocking antibodies or soluble recombinant TLR4-MD2 as a decoy receptor, suggesting TLR4 was recruited by Tat protein. Tat-induced murine IL-6 and CXCL1/KC a functional homologue of human IL-8 was abolished in peritoneal macrophages derived from TLR4 KO but not from Wt mice, confirming the involvement of the TLR4 pathway. Furthermore, the recruitment of TLR4-MD2-CD14 complex by Tat protein was demonstrated by the activation of TLR4 downstream pathways including NF-κB and SOCS-1 and by down-modulation of cell surface TLR4 by endocytosis in dynamin and lipid-raft-dependent manners. Collectively, these findings demonstrate, for the first time, that HIV-1 Tat interacts with TLR4-MD2-CD14 complex and activates the NF-κB pathway, leading to overproduction of IL-6 and IL-8 pro-inflammatory cytokines by myeloid cells from both healthy and HIV-1 infected patients. This study reveals a novel mechanism by which HIV-1, via its early expressed Tat protein, hijacks the TLR4 pathway, hence establishing abnormal hyper-activation of the immune system.

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