Nef-mediated down-regulation of CD4 and HLA class I in HIV-1 subtype C infection: association with disease progression and influence of immune pressure.
Mann JK., Chopera D., Omarjee S., Kuang XT., Le AQ., Anmole G., Danroth R., Mwimanzi P., Reddy T., Carlson J., Radebe M., Goulder PJ., Walker BD., Abdool Karim S., Novitsky V., Williamson C., Brockman MA., Brumme ZL., Ndung'u T.
Nef plays a major role in HIV-1 pathogenicity. We studied HIV-1 subtype C infected individuals in acute/early (n = 120) or chronic (n = 207) infection to investigate the relationship between Nef-mediated CD4/HLA-I down-regulation activities and disease progression, and the influence of immune-driven sequence variation on these Nef functions. A single Nef sequence per individual was cloned into an expression plasmid, followed by transfection of a T cell line and measurement of CD4 and HLA-I expression. In early infection, a trend of higher CD4 down-regulation ability correlating with higher viral load set point was observed (r = 0.19, p = 0.05), and higher HLA-I down-regulation activity was significantly associated with faster rate of CD4 decline (p = 0.02). HLA-I down-regulation function correlated inversely with the number HLA-associated polymorphisms previously associated with reversion in the absence of the selecting HLA allele (r = -0.21, p = 0.0002). These data support consideration of certain Nef regions in HIV-1 vaccine strategies designed to attenuate the infection course.