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J Virol. 2018 Sep 12;92(19). pii: e00157-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00157-18. Print 2018 Oct 1.

Characterization of the Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Response to Transmitted/Founder and Nontransmitted Variants of HIV-1.

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Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Immunology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Emory Vaccine Center at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection often arises from a single transmitted/founder (TF) viral variant among a large pool of viruses in the quasispecies in the transmitting partner. TF variants are typically nondominant in blood and genital secretions, indicating that they have unique traits. The plasmacytoid dendritic cell (pDC) is the primary alpha interferon (IFN-α)-producing cell in response to viral infections and is rapidly recruited to the female genital tract upon exposure to HIV-1. The impact of pDCs on transmission is unknown. We investigated whether evasion of pDC responses is a trait of TF viruses. pDCs from healthy donors were stimulated in vitro with a panel of 20 HIV-1 variants, consisting of one TF variant and three nontransmitted (NT) variants each from five transmission-linked donor pairs, and secretion of IFN-α and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). No significant differences in cytokine secretion in response to TF and NT viruses were observed, despite a trend toward enhanced IFN-α and TNF-α production in response to TF viruses. NT viruses demonstrated polarization toward production of either IFN-α or TNF-α, indicating possible dysregulation. Also, for NT viruses, IFN-α secretion was associated with increased resistance of the virus to inactivation by IFN-α in vitro, suggesting in vivo evolution. Thus, TF viruses do not appear to preferentially subvert pDC activation compared to that with nontransmitted HIV-1 variants. pDCs may, however, contribute to the in vivo evolution of HIV-1.IMPORTANCE The plasmacytoid dendritic cell (pDC) is the first cell type recruited to the site of HIV-1 exposure; however, its contribution to the viral bottleneck in HIV-1 transmission has not been explored previously. We hypothesized that transmitted/founder viruses are able to avoid the pDC response. In this study, we used previously established donor pair-linked transmitted/founder and nontransmitted (or chronic) variants of HIV-1 to stimulate pDCs. Transmitted/founder HIV-1, instead of suppressing pDC responses, induced IFN-α and TNF-α secretion to levels comparable to those induced by viruses from the transmitting partner. We noted several unique traits of chronic viruses, including polarization between IFN-α and TNF-α production as well as a strong relationship between IFN-α secretion and the resistance of the virus to neutralization. These data rule out the possibility that TF viruses preferentially suppress pDCs in comparison to the pDC response to nontransmitted HIV variants. pDCs may, however, be important drivers of viral evolution in vivo.


human immunodeficiency virus; interferons; plasmacytoid dendritic cells

[Available on 2019-03-12]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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