UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Lack of a significant impact of Gag-Protease-mediated HIV-1 replication capacity on clinical parameters in treatment-naive Japanese individuals Sakai, Keiko; Chikata, Takayuki; Brumme, Zabrina L; Brumme, Chanson J; Gatanaga, Hiroyuki; Oka, Shinichi; Takiguchi, Masafumi

Abstract

Background: HLA class I-associated escape mutations in HIV-1 Gag can reduce viral replication, suggesting that associated fitness costs could impact HIV-1 disease progression. Previous studies in North American and African cohorts have reported reduced Gag-Protease mediated viral replication capacity (Gag-Pro RC) in individuals expressing protective HLA class I alleles including HLA-B*57:01, B*27:05, and B*81:01. These studies also reported significant positive associations between Gag-Pro RCs and plasma viral load (pVL). However, these HLA alleles are virtually absent in Japan, and the importance of Gag as an immune target is not clearly defined in this population. Results We generated chimeric NL4-3 viruses carrying patient-derived Gag-Protease from 306 treatment-naive Japanese individuals chronically infected with HIV-1 subtype B. We analyzed associations between Gag-Pro RC and clinical markers of HIV-1 infection and host HLA expression. We observed no significant correlation between Gag-Pro RC and pVL in Japan in the overall cohort. However, upon exclusion of individuals expressing Japanese protective alleles HLA-B*52:01 and B*67:01, Gag-Pro RC correlated positively with pVL and negatively with CD4 T-cell count. Our results thus contrast with studies from other global cohorts reporting significantly lower Gag-Pro RC among persons expressing protective HLA alleles, and positive relationships between Gag-Pro RC and pVL in the overall study populations. We also identified five amino acids in Gag-Protease significantly associated with Gag-Pro RC, whose effects on RC were confirmed by site-directed mutagenesis. However, of the four mutations that decreased Gag-Pro RC, none were associated with reductions in pVL in Japan though two were associated with lower pVL in North America. Conclusions These data indicate that Gag fitness does not affect clinical outcomes in subjects with protective HLA class I alleles as well as the whole Japanese population. Moreover, the impact of Gag fitness costs on HIV-1 clinical parameters in chronic infection is likely low in Japan compared to other global populations.

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