This clinical concept paper overviews a program to facilitate access to postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. The project, which was a collaborative initiative involving the local School of Nursing, public health unit, AIDS service organization, hospital-based HIV clinic, and an outpatient pharmacy, was implemented to circumvent common barriers to care identified in the literature. In this project, persons who present to one of the two participating clinics after having come, or likely having come, into contact with HIV within the previous 72 hr, are offered rapid HIV testing, also known as point-of-care (POC) testing, to rule out existing HIV infection, and provided with a follow-up appointment booked at the HIV clinic. Clients are also offered comprehensive STI testing, and HIV prevention counseling. The implementation of this collaborative community-based access-to-PEP project demonstrates the application of research to a real-world health care setting, and it is hoped that others will adapt this model to their local setting, enabling ease of access to PEP for members of groups that are disproportionately affected by HIV.
Since the advent of highly active antiretroviral treatment, accelerated atherosclerosis resulting in coronary artery disease (CAD) has become an area of increasing concern among patients infected with HIV. As CAD has replaced myocarditis and opportunistic infection as the most common cause of heart failure in this population, it is necessary to re-evaluate the specific risks of cardiovascular disease in HIV-infected patients taking into consideration the processes driving atherogenesis.
HIV infection elicits defects in CD4 T-cell homeostasis in both a quantitative and qualitative manner. Interleukin-7 (IL-7) is essential to T-cell homeostasis and several groups have shown reduced levels of the IL-7 receptor alpha-chain (CD127) on both CD4 and CD8 T-cells in viremic HIV+ patients. We have shown previously that soluble HIV Tat protein specifically down regulates cell surface expression of CD127 on human CD8 T-cells in a paracrine fashion. The effects of Tat on CD127 expression in CD4 T-cells has yet to be described. To explore this effect, CD4 T-cells were isolated from healthy individuals and expression levels of CD127 were examined on cells incubated in media alone or treated with Tat protein. We show here that, similar to CD8 T-cells, the HIV-1 Tat protein specifically down regulates CD127 on primary human CD4 T-cells and directs the receptor to the proteasome for degradation. Down regulation of CD127 in response to Tat was seen on both memory and naive CD4 T-cell subsets and was blocked using either heparin or anti-Tat antibodies. Tat did not induce apoptosis in cultured primary CD4 T-cells over 72 hours as determined by Annexin V and PI staining. Pre-incubation of CD4 T-cells with HIV-1 Tat protein did however reduce the ability of IL-7 to up regulate Bcl-2 expression. Similar to exogenous Tat, endogenously expressed HIV Tat protein also suppressed CD127 expression on primary CD4 T-cells. In view of the important role IL-7 plays in lymphocyte proliferation, homeostasis and survival, down regulation of CD127 by Tat likely plays a central role in immune dysregulation and CD4 T-cell decline. Understanding this effect could lead to new approaches to mitigate the CD4 T-cell loss evident in HIV infection.
Expression of the IL-7 receptor ?-chain (CD127) is decreased on CD8 T-cells in HIV infected patients and partially recovers in those receiving antiretroviral therapy with sustained viral suppression. We have shown that soluble HIV Tat protein down regulates CD127 expression on CD8 T-cells isolated from healthy HIV-negative individuals. Tat is taken up by CD8 T-cells via endocytosis, exits the endosome and then translocates to the inner leaflet of the cell membrane where it binds to the cytoplasmic tail of CD127 inducing receptor internalization and degradation by the proteasome. This down regulation of CD127 by Tat results in impaired CD8 T-cell function. Interestingly, suppression of CD127 by Tat is reversible and requires the continual presence of Tat in the culture media. We thus questioned whether the low IL-7 receptor expression evident on CD8 T-cells in HIV+ patients was similarly reversible and if suppression of the receptor could be maintained ex vivo by Tat protein alone. We show here that when CD8 T-cells isolated from HIV+ patients are incubated alone in fresh medium, low CD127 expression on the cell surface recovers to normal levels. This recovery of CD127, however, is completely inhibited by the addition of HIV Tat protein to the culture media. This study then provides evidence that soluble factor(s) are responsible for low CD127 expression on circulating CD8 T-cells in HIV+ individuals and further implicates Tat in suppressing this receptor essential to CD8 T-cell proliferation and function.
IL-7 plays an important role in T cell survival, function, and memory cell development, yet the role of cytokine signaling pathways in these processes has not been fully elucidated. Moreover, the underlying mechanisms for the observed impairment of IL-7 activity in diseases, such as HIV infection, breast cancer, and autoimmunity, are not well understood. It was therefore hypothesized that IL-7-induced signaling molecules could be linked with distinct IL-7-associated activities. To address this, the activation and functional associations of IL-7-induced signaling pathways, specifically antigen-independent activities that are relevant to T cell homeostasis, were examined. Low concentrations of IL-7 (100 pg/ml) are capable of activating the Jak-STAT and PI3K signaling pathways, whereas higher concentrations (500-1000 pg/ml) were required to induce Bcl-2 production and glucose uptake. Even higher concentrations of IL-7 (10,000 pg/ml) were needed to induce cell proliferation and intracellular accumulation of perforin. Inhibition of Jak activation reduced IL-7-induced Bcl-2 and perforin production, whereas inhibition of Jak/STAT or PI3K pathways reduced glucose uptake and proliferation. This study suggests a complex control of IL-7-associated activities in the absence of antigen stimulation. These data may provide insights into mechanisms of impaired IL-7 signaling and function in disease and could be relevant for the study of IL-7-based immunotherapeutics. Specifically, this study has linked STAT5 and PI3K activation to shared and distinct IL-7-associated activities in human CD8(+) T cells.
Dried blood spots (DBS) are an alternative specimen collection format for HIV-1 genotyping. DBS produce HIV genotyping results that are robust and equivalent to plasma when using conventional sequencing methods. However, using tagged, pooled pyrosequencing, we demonstrate that concordance between plasma and DBS is not absolute and varies according to viral load (VL), duration of HIV infection and antiretroviral therapy (ART) status. The plasma/DBS concordance is the highest when VL is ?5,000 copies/ml and/or the patient has no ART exposure and/or when the duration of HIV infection is ?2 years. Stepwise regression analysis revealed that VL is most important independent predictor for concordance of DBS with plasma genotypes. This is the first study to use next generation sequencing to identify discordance between DBS and plasma genotypes. Consideration should be given to VL, duration of infection, and ART exposure when interpreting DBS genotypes produced using next generation sequencing. These findings are of particular significance when DBS are to be used for clinical monitoring purposes.
IL-7 signaling is essential to CD8 T cell development, activation, and homeostasis. We have previously shown decreased expression of the IL-7R alpha-chain (CD127) on CD8 T cells in HIV(+) patients and that this downregulation is mediated at least in part by the HIV Tat protein. We show in this study that CD127 has a prolonged t(1/2) in resting CD8 T cells and continuously recycles on and off the cell membrane. We also demonstrate soluble Tat protein significantly decreases the t(1/2) of CD127. Soluble Tat is taken up from the medium and accumulates in CD8 T cells with a peak of 6 h. Once inside the cell, Tat exits the endosomes during their normal acidification and enters the cytosol. Tat then translocates to the inner leaflet of the cell membrane, where it binds directly to the cytoplasmic tail of CD127, inducing receptor aggregation and internalization through a process dependent on microtubules. Tat appears to then target CD127 for degradation via the proteasome. By removing CD127 from the cell surface, the HIV Tat protein is thus able to reduce IL-7 signaling and impair CD8 T cell proliferation and function.
Syphilis and HIV are both transmitted sexually and have emerged as important co-pathogens with reciprocal augmentation in transmission and disease progression. HIV-positive patients tend to experience more aggressive symptomatology due to syphilis and are at greater risk of developing neurological disease. Similarly, standard therapy for syphilis may be inadequate in HIV-positive individual suggesting intensified treatment regimens may be required along with close follow-up. We report here the case of a 50-year-old HIV-positive male presenting with an unusual constellation of neurological findings. Although he had been treated appropriately 10 years previously for primary syphilis, investigations revealed multiple current intracranial gummas. Treatment with high-dose intravenous penicillin G resulted in clinical and radiographic resolution. Given the broad differential for HIV-positive patients presenting with neurological symptoms, the clinician must maintain a high index of suspicion for syphilis known for its varied and at times unusual manifestations. Further, prior treatment of syphilis does not ensure cure and so syphilis must be considered irrespective of treatment history.
Many clinical trials have shown that initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) at higher rather than lower CD4 T cell-positive counts results in survival benefit. Early treatment can help prevent end-organ damage associated with HIV replication and can decrease infectivity. The mainstay of treatment is either a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor or a ritonavir-boosted protease inhibitor in combination with two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. While effective at combating HIV, ART can produce adverse alterations of lipid parameters, with some studies suggesting a relationship between some anti-retroviral agents and cardiovascular disease. As the HIV-positive population ages, issues such as hypertension and diabetes must be taken into account when initiating ART. Adhering to ART can be difficult; however, nonoptimal adherence to ART can result in the development of resistance; thus, drug characteristics and the patients preparedness to begin therapy must be considered. Reducing the pill burden through the use of fixed-dose antiretroviral drug combinations can facilitate adherence.
The objective of this study was to investigate HIV knowledge and its relation to HIV stigma among health science students and pharmacists in Guyana, South America. This study also evaluated how the Public Health Strengthening in Guyana Projects (PHSGP) HIV/AIDS/STI educational initiatives influenced HIV knowledge levels among health science students at the University of Guyana.
With the decline in the morbidity and mortality associated with HIV infection, the majority of people living with HIV (PWHIV) experience a higher quality of life and longer life expectancy. Since this diagnosis no longer prevents an active lifestyle, many PWHIV are re-integrating into the workplace or are contemplating this possibility. Despite the multiple advantages associated with a return to work, research has identified barriers related to work and HIV infection. These barriers could prevent an important minority of PWHIV who wish to return to work from re-integrating into this environment. In this context, volunteering could be an alternate way to regain an active lifestyle. This research found that volunteer work allowed participants to enrich their social lives, to regain a sense of psychological well-being, and to apply their abilities to the benefit of others. However, participants are restricted by their preference to volunteer for HIV-related organizations in order to avoid social stigma and rejection.
IL-7 signaling is essential for optimal CD8 T cell function, homeostasis and establishment of memory. We have previously shown decreased expression of the IL-7 receptor alpha-chain (CD127) on CD8 T cells from HIV-infected patients with active viral replication. We have also shown that soluble HIV Tat protein specifically down-regulates CD127 on the surface of CD8 T cells and impairs cell proliferation and cytolytic potential following stimulation with IL-7 in vitro. We now show that soluble HIV Tat protein and IL-7 at near physiologic concentrations act synergistically to suppress CD127 expression. While soluble HIV Tat protein and IL-7 both independently reduce CD127 expression on the surface of CD8 T cells, Tat concentrations of 10 microg ml(-1) and IL-7 concentrations of 500 pg ml(-1) are required in vitro to have an appreciable effect. However, where 0.5 microg ml(-1) of Tat has no effect on CD127 expression and 200 pg ml(-1) of IL-7 decreases CD127 by only 14%, these two together at these same concentrations induce a 35% reduction in CD127 expression after 24 h. Inhibition of Janus kinase (JAK) completely blocks IL-7s ability to down-regulate CD127 on the surface of CD8 T cells and also abolishes synergy with Tat. Interestingly, while Tat acts synergistically with IL-7 to reduce CD127 expression, it antagonizes IL-7-induced cell proliferation and Ki-67 expression and has no effect on IL-7-mediated signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 (STAT5) phosphorylation or expression of the anti-apoptotic gene Bcl-2. Thus, by affecting different IL-7 signal transduction pathways, HIV Tat protein is able to impair both CD8 T cell activation and proliferation without inducing apoptosis.
Interleukin (IL)-7 is an essential nonredundant cytokine, and throughout the lifespan of a T-cell signaling via the IL-7 receptor influences cell survival, proliferation and differentiation. It is therefore no surprise that expression of the IL-7 receptor alpha-chain (CD127) is tightly regulated. We have previously shown that IL-7 downregulates expression of CD127 at the cell surface and now elucidate the kinetics of that suppression and demonstrate that IL-7 downregulates CD127 transcripts and surface protein in primary human CD8 T cells by two separate pathways. We show that IL-7 induces the initial reduction in cell-surface CD127 protein independent of transcriptional suppression, which is delayed by 40-60 min. Although IL-7-mediated downregulation of CD127 transcripts is dependent on Janus kinase (JAK)/STAT5, the early downregulation of surface CD127 protein is independent of JAK activity. The data further illustrate that low levels of IL-7 induce smaller and transient decreases in CD127 transcripts and surface protein, whereas higher concentrations induce more profound and sustained suppression. Such flexibility in receptor expression likely allows for fine-tuned immune responses in human CD8 T cells in different microenvironments and in response to different immunological challenges.
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