Published on Thu Jul 01 2021

ICER controls HIV-1 infection and replication in elite controllers

Luo, Z., Li, M., Li, T., Lv, Z., Ye, Z., Cisneros, W. J., Zhang, J., Yuan, L., Hultquist, J. F., Migueles, S., Zhu, J., Jiang, W.

A rare subset of HIV-infected individuals, termed elite controllers (ECs), can maintain long-term control over HIV replication in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART) Differential gene expression patterns that are specific to ECs and may influence HIV resistance were identified.

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Abstract

A rare subset of HIV-infected individuals, termed elite controllers (ECs), can maintain long-term control over HIV replication in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART). To elucidate the biological mechanism of resistance to HIV replication at the molecular and cellular levels, we performed RNA sequencing and identified alternative splicing variants from ECs, HIV-infected individuals undergoing ART, ART-naive HIV-infected individuals, and healthy controls. Differential gene expression patterns that are specific to ECs and may influence HIV resistance were identified, including alternative RNA splicing and exon usage variants of the CREM/ICER gene (cAMP-responsive element modulator/inducible cAMP early repressors). The knockout and knockdown of specific ICER exons that were found to be upregulated in ECs resulted in significantly increased HIV infection in CD4+ T cell line and primary CD4+ T cells. Overexpression of ICER isoforms decreased HIV infection in primary CD4+ T cells. Furthermore, ICER regulated HIV-1 LTR promoter activity in a Tat-dependent manner. Together, these results suggest that ICER is an HIV host factor that may contribute to HIV resistance of ECs. These findings will help elucidate the mechanisms of HIV control by ECs and may yield a new approach for treatment of HIV.