OPEN PLoS pathogens | 5 Apr 2013
JF Krisko, F Martinez-Torres, JL Foster and JV Garcia
Innate immune restriction factors represent important specialized barriers to zoonotic transmission of viruses. Significant consideration has been given to their possible use for therapeutic benefit. The apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzyme catalytic polypeptide 3 (APOBEC3) family of cytidine deaminases are potent immune defense molecules capable of efficiently restricting endogenous retroelements as well as a broad range of viruses including Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis B virus (HBV), Human Papilloma virus (HPV), and Human T Cell Leukemia virus (HTLV). The best characterized members of this family are APOBEC3G (A3G) and APOBEC3F (A3F) and their restriction of HIV. HIV has evolved to counteract these powerful restriction factors by encoding an accessory gene designated viral infectivity factor (vif). Here we demonstrate that APOBEC3 efficiently restricts CCR5-tropic HIV in the absence of Vif. However, our results also show that CXCR4-tropic HIV can escape from APOBEC3 restriction and replicate in vivo independent of Vif. Molecular analysis identified thymocytes as cells with reduced A3G and A3F expression. Direct injection of vif-defective HIV into the thymus resulted in viral replication and dissemination detected by plasma viral load analysis; however, vif-defective viruses remained sensitive to APOBEC3 restriction as extensive G to A mutation was observed in proviral DNA recovered from other organs. Remarkably, HIV replication persisted despite the inability of HIV to develop resistance to APOBEC3 in the absence of Vif. Our results provide novel insight into a highly specific subset of cells that potentially circumvent the action of APOBEC3; however our results also demonstrate the massive inactivation of CCR5-tropic HIV in the absence of Vif.
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