Author(s): Pillai SK, Pond SL, Liu Y, Good BM, Strain MC,
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Abstract HIV-1 often invades the CNS during primary infection, eventually resulting in neurological disorders in up to 50\% of untreated patients. The CNS is a distinct viral reservoir, differing from peripheral tissues in immunological surveillance, target cell characteristics and antiretroviral penetration. Neurotropic HIV-1 likely develops distinct genotypic characteristics in response to this unique selective environment. We sought to catalogue the genetic features of CNS-derived HIV-1 by analysing 456 clonal RNA sequences of the C2-V3 env subregion generated from CSF and plasma of 18 chronically infected individuals. Neuropsychological performance of all subjects was evaluated and summarized as a global deficit score. A battery of phylogenetic, statistical and machine learning tools was applied to these data to identify genetic features associated with HIV-1 neurotropism and neurovirulence. Eleven of 18 individuals exhibited significant viral compartmentalization between blood and CSF (P < 0.01, Slatkin-Maddison test). A CSF-specific genetic signature was identified, comprising positions 9, 13 and 19 of the V3 loop. The residue at position 5 of the V3 loop was highly correlated with neurocognitive deficit (P < 0.0025, Fisher's exact test). Antibody-mediated HIV-1 neutralizing activity was significantly reduced in CSF with respect to autologous blood plasma (P < 0.042, Student's t-test). Accordingly, CSF-derived sequences exhibited constrained diversity and contained fewer glycosylated and positively selected sites. Our results suggest that there are several genetic features that distinguish CSF- and plasma-derived HIV-1 populations, probably reflecting altered cellular entry requirements and decreased immune pressure in the CNS. Furthermore, neurological impairment may be influenced by mutations within the viral V3 loop sequence.
This article was published in Brain
and referenced in Journal of Neuroinfectious Diseases