Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Previously Published Works bannerUCLA

HIV-1 Nef sequence and functional compartmentalization in the gut is not due to differential cytotoxic T lymphocyte selective pressure.


The gut is the largest lymphoid organ in the body and a site of active HIV-1 replication and immune surveillance. The gut is a reservoir of persistent infection in some individuals with fully suppressed plasma viremia on combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) although the cause of this persistence is unknown. The HIV-1 accessory protein Nef contributes to persistence through multiple functions including immune evasion and increasing infectivity. Previous studies showed that Nef's function is shaped by cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses and that there are distinct populations of Nef within tissue compartments. We asked whether Nef's sequence and/or function are compartmentalized in the gut and how compartmentalization relates to local CTL immune responses. Primary nef quasispecies from paired plasma and sigmoid colon biopsies from chronically infected subjects not on therapy were sequenced and cloned into Env(-) Vpu(-) pseudotyped reporter viruses. CTL responses were mapped by IFN-γ ELISpot using expanded CD8+ cells from blood and gut with pools of overlapping peptides covering the entire HIV proteome. CD4 and MHC Class I Nef-mediated downregulation was measured by flow cytometry. Multiple tests indicated compartmentalization of nef sequences in 5 of 8 subjects. There was also compartmentalization of function with MHC Class I downregulation relatively well preserved, but significant loss of CD4 downregulation specifically by gut quasispecies in 5 of 7 subjects. There was no compartmentalization of CTL responses in 6 of 8 subjects, and the selective pressure on quasispecies correlated with the magnitude CTL response regardless of location. These results demonstrate that Nef adapts via diverse pathways to local selective pressures within gut mucosa, which may be predominated by factors other than CTL responses such as target cell availability. The finding of a functionally distinct population within gut mucosa offers some insight into how HIV-1 may persist in the gut despite fully suppressed plasma viremia on cART.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View