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Targeting antibody responses to the membrane proximal external region of the envelope glycoprotein of human immunodeficiency virus.
Although human immunodeficiency type 1 (HIV-1) infection induces strong antibody responses to the viral envelope glycoprotein (Env) only a few of these antibodies possess the capacity to neutralize a broad range of strains. The induction of such antibodies represents an important goal in the development of a preventive vaccine against the infection. Among the broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies discovered so far, three (2F5, Z13 and 4E10) target the short and hidden membrane proximal external region (MPER) of the gp41 transmembrane protein. Antibody responses to MPER are rarely observed in HIV-infected individuals or after immunization with Env immunogens. To initiate antibody responses to MPER in its membrane-embedded native conformation, we generated expression plasmids encoding the membrane-anchored ectodomain of gp41 with N-terminal deletions of various sizes. Following transfection of these plasmids, the MPER domains are displayed on the cell surface and incorporated into HIV virus like particles (VLP). Transfected cells displaying MPER mutants bound as efficiently to both 2F5 and 4E10 as cells transfected with a plasmid encoding full-length Env. Mice immunized with VLPs containing the MPER mutants produced MPER-specific antibodies, the levels of which could be increased by the trimerization of the displayed proteins as well as by a DNA prime-VLP boost immunization strategy. Although 2F5 competed for binding to MPER with antibodies in sera of some of the immunized mice, neutralizing activity could not be detected. Whether this is due to inefficient binding of the induced antibodies to MPER in the context of wild type Env or whether the overall MPER-specific antibody response induced by the MPER display mutants is too low to reveal neutralizing activity, remains to be determined.
Authors: Maxime Veillette, Mathieu Coutu, Jonathan Richard, Laurie-Anne Batraville, Anik Désormeaux, Michel Roger, Andrés Finzi.
Published: 09-14-2014
HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Env) mediate viral entry into target cells and are essential to the infectious cycle. Understanding how those glycoproteins are able to fuel the fusion process through their conformational changes could lead to the design of better, more effective immunogens for vaccine strategies. Here we describe a cell-based ELISA assay that allows studying the recognition of trimeric HIV-1 Env by monoclonal antibodies. Following expression of HIV-1 trimeric Env at the surface of transfected cells, conformation specific anti-Env antibodies are incubated with the cells. A horseradish peroxidase-conjugated secondary antibody and a simple chemiluminescence reaction are then used to detect bound antibodies. This system is highly flexible and can detect Env conformational changes induced by soluble CD4 or cellular proteins. It requires minimal amount of material and no highly-specialized equipment or know-how. Thus, this technique can be established for medium to high throughput screening of antigens and antibodies, such as newly-isolated antibodies.
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Protocol for Recombinant RBD-based SARS Vaccines: Protein Preparation, Animal Vaccination and Neutralization Detection
Authors: Lanying Du, Xiujuan Zhang, Jixiang Liu, Shibo Jiang.
Institutions: New York Blood Center.
Based on their safety profile and ability to induce potent immune responses against infections, subunit vaccines have been used as candidates for a wide variety of pathogens 1-3. Since the mammalian cell system is capable of post-translational modification, thus forming properly folded and glycosylated proteins, recombinant proteins expressed in mammalian cells have shown the greatest potential to maintain high antigenicity and immunogenicity 4-6. Although no new cases of SARS have been reported since 2004, future outbreaks are a constant threat; therefore, the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV is a prudent preventive step and should be carried out. The RBD of SARS-CoV S protein plays important roles in receptor binding and induction of specific neutralizing antibodies against virus infection 7-9. Therefore, in this protocol, we describe novel methods for developing a RBD-based subunit vaccine against SARS. Briefly, the recombinant RBD protein (rRBD) was expressed in culture supernatant of mammalian 293T cells to obtain a correctly folded protein with proper conformation and high immunogenicity 6. The transfection of the recombinant plasmid encoding RBD to the cells was then performed using a calcium phosphate transfection method 6,10 with some modifications. Compared with the lipid transfection method 11,12, this modified calcium phosphate transfection method is cheaper, easier to handle, and has the potential to reach high efficacy once a transfection complex with suitable size and shape is formed 13,14. Finally, a SARS pseudovirus neutralization assay was introduced in the protocol and used to detect the neutralizing activity of sera of mice vaccinated with rRBD protein. This assay is relatively safe, does not involve an infectious SARS-CoV, and can be performed without the requirement of a biosafety-3 laboratory 15. The protocol described here can also be used to design and study recombinant subunit vaccines against other viruses with class I fusion proteins, for example, HIV, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Ebola virus, influenza virus, as well as Nipah and Handra viruses. In addition, the methods for generating a pseudovirus and subsequently establishing a pseudovirus neutralization assay can be applied to all these viruses.
Immunology, Issue 51, SARS, receptor-binding domain, subunit vaccines, immunization, neutralization detection
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An In vitro Co-infection Model to Study Plasmodium falciparum-HIV-1 Interactions in Human Primary Monocyte-derived Immune Cells
Authors: Guadalupe Andreani, Dominic Gagnon, Robert Lodge, Michel J. Tremblay, Dave Richard.
Institutions: CHUL (CHUQ), Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of the deadliest form of malaria, and human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) are among the most important health problems worldwide, being responsible for a total of 4 million deaths annually1. Due to their extensive overlap in developing regions, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, co-infections with malaria and HIV-1 are common, but the interplay between the two diseases is poorly understood. Epidemiological reports have suggested that malarial infection transiently enhances HIV-1 replication and increases HIV-1 viral load in co-infected individuals2,3. Because this viremia stays high for several weeks after treatment with antimalarials, this phenomenon could have an impact on disease progression and transmission. The cellular immunological mechanisms behind these observations have been studied only scarcely. The few in vitro studies investigating the impact of malaria on HIV-1 have demonstrated that exposure to soluble malarial antigens can increase HIV-1 infection and reactivation in immune cells. However, these studies used whole cell extracts of P. falciparum schizont stage parasites and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), making it hard to decipher which malarial component(s) was responsible for the observed effects and what the target host cells were4,5. Recent work has demonstrated that exposure of immature monocyte-derived dendritic cells to the malarial pigment hemozoin increased their ability to transfer HIV-1 to CD4+ T cells6,7, but that it decreased HIV-1 infection of macrophages8. To shed light on this complex process, a systematic analysis of the interactions between the malaria parasite and HIV-1 in different relevant human primary cell populations is critically needed. Several techniques for investigating the impact of HIV-1 on the phagocytosis of micro-organisms and the effect of such pathogens on HIV-1 replication have been described. We here present a method to investigate the effects of P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes on the replication of HIV-1 in human primary monocyte-derived macrophages. The impact of parasite exposure on HIV-1 transcriptional/translational events is monitored by using single cycle pseudotyped viruses in which a luciferase reporter gene has replaced the Env gene while the effect on the quantity of virus released by the infected macrophages is determined by measuring the HIV-1 capsid protein p24 by ELISA in cell supernatants.
Immunology, Issue 66, Infection, Medicine, Malaria, HIV-1, Monocyte-Derived Macrophages, PBMC, Red blood cells, Dendritic Cells, Co-infections, Parasites, Plasmodium falciparum, AIDS
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Determining the Phagocytic Activity of Clinical Antibody Samples
Authors: Elizabeth G. McAndrew, Anne-Sophie Dugast, Anna F. Licht, Justin R. Eusebio, Galit Alter, Margaret E. Ackerman.
Institutions: Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, Dartmouth College.
Antibody-driven phagocytosis is induced via the engagement of Fc receptors on professional phagocytes, and can contribute to both clearance as well as pathology of disease. While the properties of the variable domains of antibodies have long been considered critical to in vivo function, the ability of antibodies to recruit innate immune cells via their Fc domains has become increasingly appreciated as a major factor in their efficacy, both in the setting of recombinant monoclonal antibody therapy, as well as in the course of natural infection or vaccination1-3. Importantly, despite its nomenclature as a constant domain, the antibody Fc domain does not have constant function, and is strongly modulated by IgG subclass (IgG1-4) and glycosylation at Asparagine 2974-6. Thus, this method to study functional differences of antigen-specific antibodies in clinical samples will facilitate correlation of the phagocytic potential of antibodies to disease state, susceptibility to infection, progression, or clinical outcome. Furthermore, this effector function is particularly important in light of the documented ability of antibodies to enhance infection by providing pathogens access into host cells via Fc receptor-driven phagocytosis7. Additionally, there is some evidence that phagocytic uptake of immune complexes can impact the Th1/Th2 polarization of the immune response8. Here, we describe an assay designed to detect differences in antibody-induced phagocytosis, which may be caused by differential IgG subclass, glycan structure at Asn297, as well as the ability to form immune complexes of antigen-specific antibodies in a high-throughput fashion. To this end, 1 μm fluorescent beads are coated with antigen, then incubated with clinical antibody samples, generating fluorescent antigen specific immune complexes. These antibody-opsonized beads are then incubated with a monocytic cell line expressing multiple FcγRs, including both inhibitory and activating. Assay output can include phagocytic activity, cytokine secretion, and patterns of FcγRs usage, and are determined in a standardized manner, making this a highly useful system for parsing differences in this antibody-dependent effector function in both infection and vaccine-mediated protection9.
Immunology, Issue 57, Phagocytosis, Antibody, ADCC, Effector Function, Fc receptor, antibody-dependent phagocytosis, monocytes
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Specific Marking of HIV-1 Positive Cells using a Rev-dependent Lentiviral Vector Expressing the Green Fluorescent Protein
Authors: Jia Guo, Clinton Enos, Yuntao Wu.
Institutions: George Mason University.
Most of HIV-responsive expression vectors are based on the HIV promoter, the long terminal repeat (LTR). While responsive to an early HIV protein, Tat, the LTR is also responsive to cellular activation states and to the local chromatin activity where the integration has occurred. This can result in high HIV-independent activity, and has restricted the usefulness of LTR-based reporter to mark HIV positive cells 1,2,3. Here, we constructed an expression lentiviral vector that possesses, in addition to the Tat-responsive LTR, numerous HIV DNA sequences that include the Rev-response element and HIV splicing sites 4,5,6. The vector was incorporated into a lentiviral reporter virus, permitting highly specific detection of replicating HIV in living cell populations. The activity of the vector was measured by expression of the green fluorescence protein (GFP). The application of this vector as reported here offers a novel alternative approach to existing methods, such as in situ PCR or HIV antigen staining, to identify HIV-positive cells. The vector can also express therapeutic genes for basic or clinical experimentation to target HIV-positive cells.
Infectious Disease, Issue 43, HIV-1, Rev, GFP, lentiviral vector, RRE
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Imaging of HIV-1 Envelope-induced Virological Synapse and Signaling on Synthetic Lipid Bilayers
Authors: Kathleen C. Prins, Gaia Vasiliver-Shamis, Michael Cammer, David Depoil, Michael L. Dustin, Catarina E. Hioe.
Institutions: New York University Langone School of Medicine, Marty and Helen Kimmel Center for Biology and Medicine and Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Veteran Affairs New York Harbor Healthcare System.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection occurs most efficiently via cell to cell transmission2,10,11. This cell to cell transfer between CD4+ T cells involves the formation of a virological synapse (VS), which is an F-actin-dependent cell-cell junction formed upon the engagement of HIV-1 envelope gp120 on the infected cell with CD4 and the chemokine receptor (CKR) CCR5 or CXCR4 on the target cell 8. In addition to gp120 and its receptors, other membrane proteins, particularly the adhesion molecule LFA-1 and its ligands, the ICAM family, play a major role in VS formation and virus transmission as they are present on the surface of virus-infected donor cells and target cells, as well as on the envelope of HIV-1 virions1,4,5,6,7,13. VS formation is also accompanied by intracellular signaling events that are transduced as a result of gp120-engagement of its receptors. Indeed, we have recently showed that CD4+ T cell interaction with gp120 induces recruitment and phosphorylation of signaling molecules associated with the TCR signalosome including Lck, CD3ζ, ZAP70, LAT, SLP-76, Itk, and PLCγ15. In this article, we present a method to visualize supramolecular arrangement and membrane-proximal signaling events taking place during VS formation. We take advantage of the glass-supported planar bi-layer system as a reductionist model to represent the surface of HIV-infected cells bearing the viral envelope gp120 and the cellular adhesion molecule ICAM-1. The protocol describes general procedures for monitoring HIV-1 gp120-induced VS assembly and signal activation events that include i) bi-layer preparation and assembly in a flow cell, ii) injection of cells and immunofluorescence staining to detect intracellular signaling molecules on cells interacting with HIV-1 gp120 and ICAM-1 on bi-layers, iii) image acquisition by TIRF microscopy, and iv) data analysis. This system generates high-resolution images of VS interface beyond that achieved with the conventional cell-cell system as it allows detection of distinct clusters of individual molecular components of VS along with specific signaling molecules recruited to these sub-domains.
Immunology, Issue 61, TIRF microscopy, planar bilayer, HIV envelope, virological synapse
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Averaging of Viral Envelope Glycoprotein Spikes from Electron Cryotomography Reconstructions using Jsubtomo
Authors: Juha T. Huiskonen, Marie-Laure Parsy, Sai Li, David Bitto, Max Renner, Thomas A. Bowden.
Institutions: University of Oxford.
Enveloped viruses utilize membrane glycoproteins on their surface to mediate entry into host cells. Three-dimensional structural analysis of these glycoprotein ‘spikes’ is often technically challenging but important for understanding viral pathogenesis and in drug design. Here, a protocol is presented for viral spike structure determination through computational averaging of electron cryo-tomography data. Electron cryo-tomography is a technique in electron microscopy used to derive three-dimensional tomographic volume reconstructions, or tomograms, of pleomorphic biological specimens such as membrane viruses in a near-native, frozen-hydrated state. These tomograms reveal structures of interest in three dimensions, albeit at low resolution. Computational averaging of sub-volumes, or sub-tomograms, is necessary to obtain higher resolution detail of repeating structural motifs, such as viral glycoprotein spikes. A detailed computational approach for aligning and averaging sub-tomograms using the Jsubtomo software package is outlined. This approach enables visualization of the structure of viral glycoprotein spikes to a resolution in the range of 20-40 Å and study of the study of higher order spike-to-spike interactions on the virion membrane. Typical results are presented for Bunyamwera virus, an enveloped virus from the family Bunyaviridae. This family is a structurally diverse group of pathogens posing a threat to human and animal health.
Immunology, Issue 92, electron cryo-microscopy, cryo-electron microscopy, electron cryo-tomography, cryo-electron tomography, glycoprotein spike, enveloped virus, membrane virus, structure, subtomogram, averaging
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Development of Cell-type specific anti-HIV gp120 aptamers for siRNA delivery
Authors: Jiehua Zhou, Haitang Li, Jane Zhang, Swiderski Piotr, John Rossi.
Institutions: Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope.
The global epidemic of infection by HIV has created an urgent need for new classes of antiretroviral agents. The potent ability of small interfering (si)RNAs to inhibit the expression of complementary RNA transcripts is being exploited as a new class of therapeutics for a variety of diseases including HIV. Many previous reports have shown that novel RNAi-based anti-HIV/AIDS therapeutic strategies have considerable promise; however, a key obstacle to the successful therapeutic application and clinical translation of siRNAs is efficient delivery. Particularly, considering the safety and efficacy of RNAi-based therapeutics, it is highly desirable to develop a targeted intracellular siRNA delivery approach to specific cell populations or tissues. The HIV-1 gp120 protein, a glycoprotein envelope on the surface of HIV-1, plays an important role in viral entry into CD4 cells. The interaction of gp120 and CD4 that triggers HIV-1 entry and initiates cell fusion has been validated as a clinically relevant anti-viral strategy for drug discovery. Herein, we firstly discuss the selection and identification of 2'-F modified anti-HIV gp120 RNA aptamers. Using a conventional nitrocellulose filter SELEX method, several new aptamers with nanomolar affinity were isolated from a 50 random nt RNA library. In order to successfully obtain bound species with higher affinity, the selection stringency is carefully controlled by adjusting the conditions. The selected aptamers can specifically bind and be rapidly internalized into cells expressing the HIV-1 envelope protein. Additionally, the aptamers alone can neutralize HIV-1 infectivity. Based upon the best aptamer A-1, we also create a novel dual inhibitory function anti-gp120 aptamer-siRNA chimera in which both the aptamer and the siRNA portions have potent anti-HIV activities. Further, we utilize the gp120 aptamer-siRNA chimeras for cell-type specific delivery of the siRNA into HIV-1 infected cells. This dual function chimera shows considerable potential for combining various nucleic acid therapeutic agents (aptamer and siRNA) in suppressing HIV-1 infection, making the aptamer-siRNA chimeras attractive therapeutic candidates for patients failing highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
Immunology, Issue 52, SELEX (Systematic Evolution of Ligands by EXponential enrichment), RNA aptamer, HIV-1 gp120, RNAi (RNA interference), siRNA (small interfering RNA), cell-type specific delivery
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A Tetracycline-regulated Cell Line Produces High-titer Lentiviral Vectors that Specifically Target Dendritic Cells
Authors: Paul D. Bryson, Chupei Zhang, Chi-Lin Lee, Pin Wang.
Institutions: University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
Lentiviral vectors (LVs) are a powerful means of delivering genetic material to many types of cells. Because of safety concerns associated with these HIV-1 derived vectors, producing large quantities of LVs is challenging. In this paper, we report a method for producing high titers of self-inactivating LVs. We retrovirally transduce the tet-off stable producer cell line GPR to generate a cell line, GPRS, which can express all the viral components, including a dendritic cell-specific glycoprotein, SVGmu. Then, we use concatemeric DNA transfection to transfect the LV transfer plasmid encoding a reporter gene GFP in combination with a selectable marker. Several of the resulting clones can produce LV at a titer 10-fold greater than what we achieve with transient transfection. Plus, these viruses efficiently transduce dendritic cells in vitro and generate a strong T cell immune response to our reporter antigen. This method may be a good option for producing strong LV-based vaccines for clinical studies of cancer or infectious diseases.
Immunology, Issue 76, Virology, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Infection, Pharmacology, Lentivirus, Cancer Vaccines, Vaccines, Virus-Like Particle, life sciences, microbiology, bioengineering (general), Lentiviral vector, stable cell line, dendritic cells, vaccine, concatemeric transfection, retrovirus, virus, plasmid, cell culture
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Production of Lentiviral Vectors for Transducing Cells from the Central Nervous System
Authors: Mingjie Li, Nada Husic, Ying Lin, B. Joy Snider.
Institutions: Washington University School of Medicine.
Efficient gene delivery in the central nervous system (CNS) is important in studying gene functions, modeling neurological diseases and developing therapeutic approaches. Lentiviral vectors are attractive tools in transduction of neurons and other cell types in CNS as they transduce both dividing and non-dividing cells, support sustained expression of transgenes, and have relatively large packaging capacity and low toxicity 1-3. Lentiviral vectors have been successfully used in transducing many neural cell types in vitro 4-6 and in animals 7-10. Great efforts have been made to develop lentiviral vectors with improved biosafety and efficiency for gene delivery. The current third generation replication-defective and self-inactivating (SIN) lentiviral vectors are depicted in Figure 1. The required elements for vector packaging are split into four plasmids. In the lentiviral transfer plasmid, the U3 region in the 5' long terminal repeat (LTR) is replaced with a strong promoter from another virus. This modification allows the transcription of the vector sequence independent of HIV-1 Tat protein that is normally required for HIV gene expression 11. The packaging signal (Ψ) is essential for encapsidation and the Rev-responsive element (RRE) is required for producing high titer vectors. The central polypurine tract (cPPT) is important for nuclear import of the vector DNA, a feature required for transducing non-dividing cells 12. In the 3' LTR, the cis-regulatory sequences are completely removed from the U3 region. This deletion is copied to 5' LTR after reverse transcription, resulting in transcriptional inactivation of both LTRs. Plasmid pMDLg/pRRE contains HIV-1 gag/pol genes, which provide structural proteins and reverse transcriptase. pRSV-Rev encodes Rev which binds to the RRE for efficient RNA export from the nucleus. pCMV-G encodes the vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein (VSV-G) that replaces HIV-1 Env. VSV-G expands the tropism of the vectors and allows concentration via ultracentrifugation 13. All the genes encoding the accessory proteins, including Vif, Vpr, Vpu, and Nef are excluded in the packaging system. The production and manipulation of lentiviral vectors should be carried out according to NIH guidelines for research involving recombinant DNA ( An approval from individual Institutional Biological and Chemical Safety Committee may be required before using lentiviral vectors. Lentiviral vectors are commonly produced by cotransfection of 293T cells with lentiviral transfer plasmid and the helper plasmids encoding the proteins required for vector packaging. Many lentiviral transfer plasmids and helper plasmids can be obtained from Addgene, a non-profit plasmid repository ( Some stable packaging cell lines have been developed, but these systems provide less flexibility and their packaging efficiency generally declines over time 14, 15. Commercially available transfection kits may support high efficiency of transfection 16, but they can be very expensive for large scale vector preparations. Calcium phosphate precipitation methods provide highly efficient transfection of 293T cells and thus provide a reliable and cost effective approach for lentiviral vector production. In this protocol, we produce lentiviral vectors by cotransfection of 293T cells with four plasmids based on the calcium phosphate precipitation principle, followed by purification and concentration with ultracentrifugation through a 20% sucrose cushion. The vector titers are determined by fluorescence- activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis or by real time qPCR. The production and titration of lentiviral vectors in this protocol can be finished with 9 days. We provide an example of transducing these vectors into murine neocortical cultures containing both neurons and astrocytes. We demonstrate that lentiviral vectors support high efficiency of transduction and cell type-specific gene expression in primary cultured cells from CNS.
Neuroscience, Issue 63, Cell culture, transduction, lentiviral vector, neuron, astrocyte, promoter, CNS, genetics
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Two Methods of Heterokaryon Formation to Discover HCV Restriction Factors
Authors: Anne Frentzen, Kathrin Hueging, Julia Bitzegeio, Thomas Pietschmann, Eike Steinmann.
Institutions: Twincore, Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research, The Rockefeller University, NY.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a hepatotropic virus with a host-range restricted to humans and chimpanzees. Although HCV RNA replication has been observed in human non-hepatic and murine cell lines, the efficiency was very low and required long-term selection procedures using HCV replicon constructs expressing dominant antibiotic-selectable markers1-5. HCV in vitro research is therefore limited to human hepatoma cell lines permissive for virus entry and completion of the viral life cycle. Due to HCVs narrow species tropism, there is no immunocompetent small animal model available that sustains the complete HCV replication cycle 6-8. Inefficient replication of HCV in non-human cells e.g. of mouse origin is likely due to lack of genetic incompatibility of essential host dependency factors and/or expression of restriction factors. We investigated whether HCV propagation is suppressed by dominant restriction factors in either human cell lines derived from non-hepatic tissues or in mouse liver cell lines. To this end, we developed two independent conditional trans-complementation methods relying on somatic cell fusion. In both cases, completion of the viral replication cycle is only possible in the heterokaryons. Consequently, successful trans-complementation, which is determined by measuring de novo production of infectious viral progeny, indicates absence of dominant restrictions. Specifically, subgenomic HCV replicons carrying a luciferase transgene were transfected into highly permissive human hepatoma cells (Huh-7.5 cells). Subsequently, these cells were co-cultured and fused to various human and murine cells expressing HCV structural proteins core, envelope 1 and 2 (E1, E2) and accessory proteins p7 and NS2. Provided that cell fusion was initiated by treatment with polyethylene-glycol (PEG), the culture released infectious viral particles which infected naïve cells in a receptor-dependent fashion. To assess the influence of dominant restrictions on the complete viral life cycle including cell entry, RNA translation, replication and virus assembly, we took advantage of a human liver cell line (Huh-7 Lunet N cells 9) which lacks endogenous expression of CD81, an essential entry factor of HCV. In the absence of ectopically expressed CD81, these cells are essentially refractory to HCV infection 10 . Importantly, when co-cultured and fused with cells that express human CD81 but lack at least another crucial cell entry factor (i.e. SR-BI, CLDN1, OCLN), only the resulting heterokaryons display the complete set of HCV entry factors requisite for infection. Therefore, to analyze if dominant restriction factors suppress completion of the HCV replication cycle, we fused Lunet N cells with various cells from human and mouse origin which fulfill the above mentioned criteria. When co-cultured cells were transfected with a highly fusogenic viral envelope protein mutant of the prototype foamy virus (PFV11) and subsequently challenged with infectious HCV particles (HCVcc), de novo production of infectious virus was observed. This indicates that HCV successfully completed its replication cycle in heterokaryons thus ruling out expression of dominant restriction factors in these cell lines. These novel conditional trans-complementation methods will be useful to screen a large panel of cell lines and primary cells for expression of HCV-specific dominant restriction factors.
Virology, Issue 65, Immunology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, cell fusion, HCV, restriction factor, heterokaryon, mouse, species-specificity
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A Protocol for Analyzing Hepatitis C Virus Replication
Authors: Songyang Ren, Deisy Contreras, Vaithilingaraja Arumugaswami.
Institutions: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) affects 3% of the world’s population and causes serious liver ailments including chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. HCV is an enveloped RNA virus belonging to the family Flaviviridae. Current treatment is not fully effective and causes adverse side effects. There is no HCV vaccine available. Thus, continued effort is required for developing a vaccine and better therapy. An HCV cell culture system is critical for studying various stages of HCV growth including viral entry, genome replication, packaging, and egress. In the current procedure presented, we used a wild-type intragenotype 2a chimeric virus, FNX-HCV, and a recombinant FNX-Rluc virus carrying a Renilla luciferase reporter gene to study the virus replication. A human hepatoma cell line (Huh-7 based) was used for transfection of in vitro transcribed HCV genomic RNAs. Cell-free culture supernatants, protein lysates and total RNA were harvested at various time points post-transfection to assess HCV growth. HCV genome replication status was evaluated by quantitative RT-PCR and visualizing the presence of HCV double-stranded RNA. The HCV protein expression was verified by Western blot and immunofluorescence assays using antibodies specific for HCV NS3 and NS5A proteins. HCV RNA transfected cells released infectious particles into culture supernatant and the viral titer was measured. Luciferase assays were utilized to assess the replication level and infectivity of reporter HCV. In conclusion, we present various virological assays for characterizing different stages of the HCV replication cycle.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 88, Hepatitis C Virus, HCV, Tumor-virus, Hepatitis C, Cirrhosis, Liver Cancer, Hepatocellular Carcinoma
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Assessment of Immunologically Relevant Dynamic Tertiary Structural Features of the HIV-1 V3 Loop Crown R2 Sequence by ab initio Folding
Authors: David Almond, Timothy Cardozo.
Institutions: School of Medicine, New York University.
The antigenic diversity of HIV-1 has long been an obstacle to vaccine design, and this variability is especially pronounced in the V3 loop of the virus' surface envelope glycoprotein. We previously proposed that the crown of the V3 loop, although dynamic and sequence variable, is constrained throughout the population of HIV-1 viruses to an immunologically relevant β-hairpin tertiary structure. Importantly, there are thousands of different V3 loop crown sequences in circulating HIV-1 viruses, making 3D structural characterization of trends across the diversity of viruses difficult or impossible by crystallography or NMR. Our previous successful studies with folding of the V3 crown1, 2 used the ab initio algorithm 3 accessible in the ICM-Pro molecular modeling software package (Molsoft LLC, La Jolla, CA) and suggested that the crown of the V3 loop, specifically from positions 10 to 22, benefits sufficiently from the flexibility and length of its flanking stems to behave to a large degree as if it were an unconstrained peptide freely folding in solution. As such, rapid ab initio folding of just this portion of the V3 loop of any individual strain of the 60,000+ circulating HIV-1 strains can be informative. Here, we folded the V3 loop of the R2 strain to gain insight into the structural basis of its unique properties. R2 bears a rare V3 loop sequence thought to be responsible for the exquisite sensitivity of this strain to neutralization by patient sera and monoclonal antibodies4, 5. The strain mediates CD4-independent infection and appears to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies. We demonstrate how evaluation of the results of the folding can be informative for associating observed structures in the folding with the immunological activities observed for R2.
Infection, Issue 43, HIV-1, structure-activity relationships, ab initio simulations, antibody-mediated neutralization, vaccine design
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Expression of Functional Recombinant Hemagglutinin and Neuraminidase Proteins from the Novel H7N9 Influenza Virus Using the Baculovirus Expression System
Authors: Irina Margine, Peter Palese, Florian Krammer.
Institutions: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
The baculovirus expression system is a powerful tool for expression of recombinant proteins. Here we use it to produce correctly folded and glycosylated versions of the influenza A virus surface glycoproteins - the hemagglutinin (HA) and the neuraminidase (NA). As an example, we chose the HA and NA proteins expressed by the novel H7N9 virus that recently emerged in China. However the protocol can be easily adapted for HA and NA proteins expressed by any other influenza A and B virus strains. Recombinant HA (rHA) and NA (rNA) proteins are important reagents for immunological assays such as ELISPOT and ELISA, and are also in wide use for vaccine standardization, antibody discovery, isolation and characterization. Furthermore, recombinant NA molecules can be used to screen for small molecule inhibitors and are useful for characterization of the enzymatic function of the NA, as well as its sensitivity to antivirals. Recombinant HA proteins are also being tested as experimental vaccines in animal models, and a vaccine based on recombinant HA was recently licensed by the FDA for use in humans. The method we describe here to produce these molecules is straight forward and can facilitate research in influenza laboratories, since it allows for production of large amounts of proteins fast and at a low cost. Although here we focus on influenza virus surface glycoproteins, this method can also be used to produce other viral and cellular surface proteins.
Infection, Issue 81, Influenza A virus, Orthomyxoviridae Infections, Influenza, Human, Influenza in Birds, Influenza Vaccines, hemagglutinin, neuraminidase, H7N9, baculovirus, insect cells, recombinant protein expression
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A Restriction Enzyme Based Cloning Method to Assess the In vitro Replication Capacity of HIV-1 Subtype C Gag-MJ4 Chimeric Viruses
Authors: Daniel T. Claiborne, Jessica L. Prince, Eric Hunter.
Institutions: Emory University, Emory University.
The protective effect of many HLA class I alleles on HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease progression is, in part, attributed to their ability to target conserved portions of the HIV-1 genome that escape with difficulty. Sequence changes attributed to cellular immune pressure arise across the genome during infection, and if found within conserved regions of the genome such as Gag, can affect the ability of the virus to replicate in vitro. Transmission of HLA-linked polymorphisms in Gag to HLA-mismatched recipients has been associated with reduced set point viral loads. We hypothesized this may be due to a reduced replication capacity of the virus. Here we present a novel method for assessing the in vitro replication of HIV-1 as influenced by the gag gene isolated from acute time points from subtype C infected Zambians. This method uses restriction enzyme based cloning to insert the gag gene into a common subtype C HIV-1 proviral backbone, MJ4. This makes it more appropriate to the study of subtype C sequences than previous recombination based methods that have assessed the in vitro replication of chronically derived gag-pro sequences. Nevertheless, the protocol could be readily modified for studies of viruses from other subtypes. Moreover, this protocol details a robust and reproducible method for assessing the replication capacity of the Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses on a CEM-based T cell line. This method was utilized for the study of Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses derived from 149 subtype C acutely infected Zambians, and has allowed for the identification of residues in Gag that affect replication. More importantly, the implementation of this technique has facilitated a deeper understanding of how viral replication defines parameters of early HIV-1 pathogenesis such as set point viral load and longitudinal CD4+ T cell decline.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 90, HIV-1, Gag, viral replication, replication capacity, viral fitness, MJ4, CEM, GXR25
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Determination of Molecular Structures of HIV Envelope Glycoproteins using Cryo-Electron Tomography and Automated Sub-tomogram Averaging
Authors: Joel R. Meyerson, Tommi A. White, Donald Bliss, Amy Moran, Alberto Bartesaghi, Mario J. Borgnia, M. Jason V. de la Cruz, David Schauder, Lisa M. Hartnell, Rachna Nandwani, Moez Dawood, Brianna Kim, Jun Hong Kim, John Sununu, Lisa Yang, Siddhant Bhatia, Carolyn Subramaniam, Darrell E. Hurt, Laurent Gaudreault, Sriram Subramaniam.
Institutions: National Institutes of Health, University of Cambridge , National Institutes of Health, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, William Fremd High School, University of Virginia , Duke University , Yale University, University of Notre Dame , Washington University in St. Louis , National Institutes of Health, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
Since its discovery nearly 30 years ago, more than 60 million people have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) ( The virus infects and destroys CD4+ T-cells thereby crippling the immune system, and causing an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) 2. Infection begins when the HIV Envelope glycoprotein "spike" makes contact with the CD4 receptor on the surface of the CD4+ T-cell. This interaction induces a conformational change in the spike, which promotes interaction with a second cell surface co-receptor 5,9. The significance of these protein interactions in the HIV infection pathway makes them of profound importance in fundamental HIV research, and in the pursuit of an HIV vaccine. The need to better understand the molecular-scale interactions of HIV cell contact and neutralization motivated the development of a technique to determine the structures of the HIV spike interacting with cell surface receptor proteins and molecules that block infection. Using cryo-electron tomography and 3D image processing, we recently demonstrated the ability to determine such structures on the surface of native virus, at ˜20 Å resolution 9,14. This approach is not limited to resolving HIV Envelope structures, and can be extended to other viral membrane proteins and proteins reconstituted on a liposome. In this protocol, we describe how to obtain structures of HIV envelope glycoproteins starting from purified HIV virions and proceeding stepwise through preparing vitrified samples, collecting, cryo-electron microscopy data, reconstituting and processing 3D data volumes, averaging and classifying 3D protein subvolumes, and interpreting results to produce a protein model. The computational aspects of our approach were adapted into modules that can be accessed and executed remotely using the Biowulf GNU/Linux parallel processing cluster at the NIH ( This remote access, combined with low-cost computer hardware and high-speed network access, has made possible the involvement of researchers and students working from school or home.
Immunology, Issue 58, HIV, Envelope glycoprotein, membrane protein, vaccine design, cryo-electron tomography, transmission electron microscopy, structural biology, high school science, scientific outreach, scientific visualization, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, National Library of Medicine
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The Use of Fluorescent Target Arrays for Assessment of T Cell Responses In vivo
Authors: Benjamin J. C. Quah, Danushka K. Wijesundara, Charani Ranasinghe, Christopher R. Parish.
Institutions: Australian National University.
The ability to monitor T cell responses in vivo is important for the development of our understanding of the immune response and the design of immunotherapies. Here we describe the use of fluorescent target array (FTA) technology, which utilizes vital dyes such as carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester (CFSE), violet laser excitable dyes (CellTrace Violet: CTV) and red laser excitable dyes (Cell Proliferation Dye eFluor 670: CPD) to combinatorially label mouse lymphocytes into >250 discernable fluorescent cell clusters. Cell clusters within these FTAs can be pulsed with major histocompatibility (MHC) class-I and MHC class-II binding peptides and thereby act as target cells for CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, respectively. These FTA cells remain viable and fully functional, and can therefore be administered into mice to allow assessment of CD8+ T cell-mediated killing of FTA target cells and CD4+ T cell-meditated help of FTA B cell target cells in real time in vivo by flow cytometry. Since >250 target cells can be assessed at once, the technique allows the monitoring of T cell responses against several antigen epitopes at several concentrations and in multiple replicates. As such, the technique can measure T cell responses at both a quantitative (e.g. the cumulative magnitude of the response) and a qualitative (e.g. functional avidity and epitope-cross reactivity of the response) level. Herein, we describe how these FTAs are constructed and give an example of how they can be applied to assess T cell responses induced by a recombinant pox virus vaccine.
Immunology, Issue 88, Investigative Techniques, T cell response, Flow Cytometry, Multiparameter, CTL assay in vivo, carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester (CFSE), CellTrace Violet (CTV), Cell Proliferation Dye eFluor 670 (CPD)
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Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Authors: James Smadbeck, Meghan B. Peterson, George A. Khoury, Martin S. Taylor, Christodoulos A. Floudas.
Institutions: Princeton University.
The aim of de novo protein design is to find the amino acid sequences that will fold into a desired 3-dimensional structure with improvements in specific properties, such as binding affinity, agonist or antagonist behavior, or stability, relative to the native sequence. Protein design lies at the center of current advances drug design and discovery. Not only does protein design provide predictions for potentially useful drug targets, but it also enhances our understanding of the protein folding process and protein-protein interactions. Experimental methods such as directed evolution have shown success in protein design. However, such methods are restricted by the limited sequence space that can be searched tractably. In contrast, computational design strategies allow for the screening of a much larger set of sequences covering a wide variety of properties and functionality. We have developed a range of computational de novo protein design methods capable of tackling several important areas of protein design. These include the design of monomeric proteins for increased stability and complexes for increased binding affinity. To disseminate these methods for broader use we present Protein WISDOM (, a tool that provides automated methods for a variety of protein design problems. Structural templates are submitted to initialize the design process. The first stage of design is an optimization sequence selection stage that aims at improving stability through minimization of potential energy in the sequence space. Selected sequences are then run through a fold specificity stage and a binding affinity stage. A rank-ordered list of the sequences for each step of the process, along with relevant designed structures, provides the user with a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the design. Here we provide the details of each design method, as well as several notable experimental successes attained through the use of the methods.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, Protein, Protein Binding, Computational Biology, Drug Design, optimization (mathematics), Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, De novo protein and peptide design, Drug design, In silico sequence selection, Optimization, Fold specificity, Binding affinity, sequencing
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Characterization of Complex Systems Using the Design of Experiments Approach: Transient Protein Expression in Tobacco as a Case Study
Authors: Johannes Felix Buyel, Rainer Fischer.
Institutions: RWTH Aachen University, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
Plants provide multiple benefits for the production of biopharmaceuticals including low costs, scalability, and safety. Transient expression offers the additional advantage of short development and production times, but expression levels can vary significantly between batches thus giving rise to regulatory concerns in the context of good manufacturing practice. We used a design of experiments (DoE) approach to determine the impact of major factors such as regulatory elements in the expression construct, plant growth and development parameters, and the incubation conditions during expression, on the variability of expression between batches. We tested plants expressing a model anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (2G12) and a fluorescent marker protein (DsRed). We discuss the rationale for selecting certain properties of the model and identify its potential limitations. The general approach can easily be transferred to other problems because the principles of the model are broadly applicable: knowledge-based parameter selection, complexity reduction by splitting the initial problem into smaller modules, software-guided setup of optimal experiment combinations and step-wise design augmentation. Therefore, the methodology is not only useful for characterizing protein expression in plants but also for the investigation of other complex systems lacking a mechanistic description. The predictive equations describing the interconnectivity between parameters can be used to establish mechanistic models for other complex systems.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, design of experiments (DoE), transient protein expression, plant-derived biopharmaceuticals, promoter, 5'UTR, fluorescent reporter protein, model building, incubation conditions, monoclonal antibody
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Peptide-based Identification of Functional Motifs and their Binding Partners
Authors: Martin N. Shelton, Ming Bo Huang, Syed Ali, Kateena Johnson, William Roth, Michael Powell, Vincent Bond.
Institutions: Morehouse School of Medicine, Institute for Systems Biology, Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Specific short peptides derived from motifs found in full-length proteins, in our case HIV-1 Nef, not only retain their biological function, but can also competitively inhibit the function of the full-length protein. A set of 20 Nef scanning peptides, 20 amino acids in length with each overlapping 10 amino acids of its neighbor, were used to identify motifs in Nef responsible for its induction of apoptosis. Peptides containing these apoptotic motifs induced apoptosis at levels comparable to the full-length Nef protein. A second peptide, derived from the Secretion Modification Region (SMR) of Nef, retained the ability to interact with cellular proteins involved in Nef's secretion in exosomes (exNef). This SMRwt peptide was used as the "bait" protein in co-immunoprecipitation experiments to isolate cellular proteins that bind specifically to Nef's SMR motif. Protein transfection and antibody inhibition was used to physically disrupt the interaction between Nef and mortalin, one of the isolated SMR-binding proteins, and the effect was measured with a fluorescent-based exNef secretion assay. The SMRwt peptide's ability to outcompete full-length Nef for cellular proteins that bind the SMR motif, make it the first inhibitor of exNef secretion. Thus, by employing the techniques described here, which utilize the unique properties of specific short peptides derived from motifs found in full-length proteins, one may accelerate the identification of functional motifs in proteins and the development of peptide-based inhibitors of pathogenic functions.
Virology, Issue 76, Biochemistry, Immunology, Infection, Infectious Diseases, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Genetics, Microbiology, Genomics, Proteins, Exosomes, HIV, Peptides, Exocytosis, protein trafficking, secretion, HIV-1, Nef, Secretion Modification Region, SMR, peptide, AIDS, assay
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Using Reverse Genetics to Manipulate the NSs Gene of the Rift Valley Fever Virus MP-12 Strain to Improve Vaccine Safety and Efficacy
Authors: Birte Kalveram, Olga Lihoradova, Sabarish V. Indran, Tetsuro Ikegami.
Institutions: University of Texas Medical Branch.
Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV), which causes hemorrhagic fever, neurological disorders or blindness in humans, and a high rate abortion and fetal malformation in ruminants1, has been classified as a HHS/USDA overlap select agent and a risk group 3 pathogen. It belongs to the genus Phlebovirus in the family Bunyaviridae and is one of the most virulent members of this family. Several reverse genetics systems for the RVFV MP-12 vaccine strain2,3 as well as wild-type RVFV strains 4-6, including ZH548 and ZH501, have been developed since 2006. The MP-12 strain (which is a risk group 2 pathogen and a non-select agent) is highly attenuated by several mutations in its M- and L-segments, but still carries virulent S-segment RNA3, which encodes a functional virulence factor, NSs. The rMP12-C13type (C13type) carrying 69% in-frame deletion of NSs ORF lacks all the known NSs functions, while it replicates as efficient as does MP-12 in VeroE6 cells lacking type-I IFN. NSs induces a shut-off of host transcription including interferon (IFN)-beta mRNA7,8 and promotes degradation of double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) at the post-translational level.9,10 IFN-beta is transcriptionally upregulated by interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3), NF-kB and activator protein-1 (AP-1), and the binding of IFN-beta to IFN-alpha/beta receptor (IFNAR) stimulates the transcription of IFN-alpha genes or other interferon stimulated genes (ISGs)11, which induces host antiviral activities, whereas host transcription suppression including IFN-beta gene by NSs prevents the gene upregulations of those ISGs in response to viral replication although IRF-3, NF-kB and activator protein-1 (AP-1) can be activated by RVFV7. . Thus, NSs is an excellent target to further attenuate MP-12, and to enhance host innate immune responses by abolishing the IFN-beta suppression function. Here, we describe a protocol for generating a recombinant MP-12 encoding mutated NSs, and provide an example of a screening method to identify NSs mutants lacking the function to suppress IFN-beta mRNA synthesis. In addition to its essential role in innate immunity, type-I IFN is important for the maturation of dendritic cells and the induction of an adaptive immune response12-14. Thus, NSs mutants inducing type-I IFN are further attenuated, but at the same time are more efficient at stimulating host immune responses than wild-type MP-12, which makes them ideal candidates for vaccination approaches.
Immunology, Issue 57, Rift Valley fever virus, reverse genetics, NSs, MP-12, vaccine development
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Optimization and Utilization of Agrobacterium-mediated Transient Protein Production in Nicotiana
Authors: Moneim Shamloul, Jason Trusa, Vadim Mett, Vidadi Yusibov.
Institutions: Fraunhofer USA Center for Molecular Biotechnology.
Agrobacterium-mediated transient protein production in plants is a promising approach to produce vaccine antigens and therapeutic proteins within a short period of time. However, this technology is only just beginning to be applied to large-scale production as many technological obstacles to scale up are now being overcome. Here, we demonstrate a simple and reproducible method for industrial-scale transient protein production based on vacuum infiltration of Nicotiana plants with Agrobacteria carrying launch vectors. Optimization of Agrobacterium cultivation in AB medium allows direct dilution of the bacterial culture in Milli-Q water, simplifying the infiltration process. Among three tested species of Nicotiana, N. excelsiana (N. benthamiana × N. excelsior) was selected as the most promising host due to the ease of infiltration, high level of reporter protein production, and about two-fold higher biomass production under controlled environmental conditions. Induction of Agrobacterium harboring pBID4-GFP (Tobacco mosaic virus-based) using chemicals such as acetosyringone and monosaccharide had no effect on the protein production level. Infiltrating plant under 50 to 100 mbar for 30 or 60 sec resulted in about 95% infiltration of plant leaf tissues. Infiltration with Agrobacterium laboratory strain GV3101 showed the highest protein production compared to Agrobacteria laboratory strains LBA4404 and C58C1 and wild-type Agrobacteria strains at6, at10, at77 and A4. Co-expression of a viral RNA silencing suppressor, p23 or p19, in N. benthamiana resulted in earlier accumulation and increased production (15-25%) of target protein (influenza virus hemagglutinin).
Plant Biology, Issue 86, Agroinfiltration, Nicotiana benthamiana, transient protein production, plant-based expression, viral vector, Agrobacteria
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Amplifying and Quantifying HIV-1 RNA in HIV Infected Individuals with Viral Loads Below the Limit of Detection by Standard Clinical Assays
Authors: Helene Mens, Mary Kearney, Ann Wiegand, Jonathan Spindler, Frank Maldarelli, John W. Mellors, John M. Coffin.
Institutions: NCI-Frederick, University of Pittsburgh, Tuffts University.
Amplifying viral genes and quantifying HIV-1 RNA in HIV-1 infected individuals with viral loads below the limit of detection by standard assays (below 50-75 copies/ml) is necessary to gain insight to viral dynamics and virus host interactions in patients who naturally control the infection and those who are on combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). Here we describe how to amplify viral genomes by single genome sequencing (the SGS protocol) 13, 19 and how to accurately quantify HIV-1 RNA in patients with low viral loads (the single-copy assay (SCA) protocol) 12, 20. The single-copy assay is a real-time PCR assay with sensitivity depending on the volume of plasma being assayed. If a single virus genome is detected in 7 ml of plasma, then the RNA copy number is reported to be 0.3 copies/ml. The assay has an internal control testing for the efficiency of RNA extraction, and controls for possible amplification from DNA or contamination. Patient samples are measured in triplicate. The single-genome sequencing assay (SGS), now widely used and considered to be non-labor intensive 3, 7, 12, 14, 15,is a limiting dilution assay, in which endpoint diluted cDNA product is spread over a 96-well plate. According to a Poisson distribution, when less than 1/3 of the wells give product, there is an 80% chance of the PCR product being resultant of amplification from a single cDNA molecule. SGS has the advantage over cloning of not being subjected to resampling and not being biased by PCR-introduced recombination 19. However, the amplification success of SCA and SGS depend on primer design. Both assays were developed for HIV-1 subtype B, but can be adapted for other subtypes and other regions of the genome by changing primers, probes, and standards.
Immunology, Issue 55, single genome sequencing, SGS, real-time PCR, single-copy assay, SCA, HIV-1, ultra-sensitive, RNA extraction
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Molecular Evolution of the Tre Recombinase
Authors: Frank Buchholz.
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Here we report the generation of Tre recombinase through directed, molecular evolution. Tre recombinase recognizes a pre-defined target sequence within the LTR sequences of the HIV-1 provirus, resulting in the excision and eradication of the provirus from infected human cells. We started with Cre, a 38-kDa recombinase, that recognizes a 34-bp double-stranded DNA sequence known as loxP. Because Cre can effectively eliminate genomic sequences, we set out to tailor a recombinase that could remove the sequence between the 5'-LTR and 3'-LTR of an integrated HIV-1 provirus. As a first step we identified sequences within the LTR sites that were similar to loxP and tested for recombination activity. Initially Cre and mutagenized Cre libraries failed to recombine the chosen loxLTR sites of the HIV-1 provirus. As the start of any directed molecular evolution process requires at least residual activity, the original asymmetric loxLTR sequences were split into subsets and tested again for recombination activity. Acting as intermediates, recombination activity was shown with the subsets. Next, recombinase libraries were enriched through reiterative evolution cycles. Subsequently, enriched libraries were shuffled and recombined. The combination of different mutations proved synergistic and recombinases were created that were able to recombine loxLTR1 and loxLTR2. This was evidence that an evolutionary strategy through intermediates can be successful. After a total of 126 evolution cycles individual recombinases were functionally and structurally analyzed. The most active recombinase -- Tre -- had 19 amino acid changes as compared to Cre. Tre recombinase was able to excise the HIV-1 provirus from the genome HIV-1 infected HeLa cells (see "HIV-1 Proviral DNA Excision Using an Evolved Recombinase", Hauber J., Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology, Hamburg, Germany). While still in its infancy, directed molecular evolution will allow the creation of custom enzymes that will serve as tools of "molecular surgery" and molecular medicine.
Cell Biology, Issue 15, HIV-1, Tre recombinase, Site-specific recombination, molecular evolution
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Interview: HIV-1 Proviral DNA Excision Using an Evolved Recombinase
Authors: Joachim Hauber.
Institutions: Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology, University of Hamburg.
HIV-1 integrates into the host chromosome of infected cells and persists as a provirus flanked by long terminal repeats. Current treatment strategies primarily target virus enzymes or virus-cell fusion, suppressing the viral life cycle without eradicating the infection. Since the integrated provirus is not targeted by these approaches, new resistant strains of HIV-1 may emerge. Here, we report that the engineered recombinase Tre (see Molecular evolution of the Tre recombinase , Buchholz, F., Max Planck Institute for Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden) efficiently excises integrated HIV-1 proviral DNA from the genome of infected cells. We produced loxLTR containing viral pseudotypes and infected HeLa cells to examine whether Tre recombinase can excise the provirus from the genome of HIV-1 infected human cells. A virus particle-releasing cell line was cloned and transfected with a plasmid expressing Tre or with a parental control vector. Recombinase activity and virus production were monitored. All assays demonstrated the efficient deletion of the provirus from infected cells without visible cytotoxic effects. These results serve as proof of principle that it is possible to evolve a recombinase to specifically target an HIV-1 LTR and that this recombinase is capable of excising the HIV-1 provirus from the genome of HIV-1-infected human cells. Before an engineered recombinase could enter the therapeutic arena, however, significant obstacles need to be overcome. Among the most critical issues, that we face, are an efficient and safe delivery to targeted cells and the absence of side effects.
Medicine, Issue 16, HIV, Cell Biology, Recombinase, provirus, HeLa Cells
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