HIV-1 Nef mediates downregulation of HLA class I (HLA-I) through a number of highly conserved sequence motifs. We investigated the in vivo implication(s) of naturally arising polymorphisms in functional motifs in HIV-1 Nef that are associated with HLA-I downregulation, including the acidic cluster, polyproline, di-arginine and Met-20 regions. Plasma samples from treatment-naive, chronically HIV-1 infected subjects were collected after obtaining informed consent, and viral RNA was extracted and amplified by nested RT-PCR. The resultant nef amplicons were sequenced directly, and subtype-B sequences with an intact open reading frame (n = 406) were included in our analyses. There was over-representation of isoleucine at position 20 (Ile-20) in our dataset when compared to sequences in the Los Alamos sequence database (17.7 vs. 6.9 %, p = 0.0309). The presence of having Ile-20 in Nef was found to be associated with higher median plasma viral load (p = 0.013), independent of associated codons or viral lineage effects, whereas no clinical association was found with polymorphisms in the other functional motifs. Moreover, introduction of a Met-20-to-Ile mutation in a laboratory strain SF2 Nef resulted in a modest, albeit not statistically significant, increase in HLA class I downregulation activity (p = 0.06). Taken together, we have identified a naturally arising polymorphism, Ile-20, within HIV-1 subtype B Nef that is associated with poorer disease outcome.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 10, 2015
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