Host and viral factors influence the HIV-1 infection course. Reduced Nef function has been observed in HIV-1 controllers during the chronic phase, but the kinetics and mechanisms of Nef attenuation in such individuals remain unclear. We examined plasma RNA-derived Nef clones from 10 recently infected individuals who subsequently suppressed viremia to less than 2,000 RNA copies/ ml within 1 year postinfection (acute controllers) and 50 recently infected individuals who did not control viremia (acute progressors). Nef clones from acute controllers displayed a lesser ability to downregulate CD4 and HLA class I from the cell surface and a reduced ability to enhance virion infectivity compared to those from acute progressors (all P < 0.01). HLA class I downregulation activity correlated inversely with days postinfection (Spearman's R=-0.85, P=0.004) and positively with baseline plasma viral load (Spearman's R=0.81, P=0.007) in acute controllers but not in acute progressors. Nef polymorphisms associated with functional changes over time were identified in follow-up samples from six controllers. For one such individual, mutational analyses indicated that four polymorphisms selected by HLA-A⋆31 and B⋆37 acted in combination to reduce Nef steady-state protein levels and HLA class I downregulation activity. Our results demonstrate that relative control of initial HIV-1 viremia is associated with Nef clones that display reduced function, which in turn may influence the course of HIV-1 infection. Transmission of impaired Nef sequences likely contributed in part to this observation; however, accumulation of HLA-associated polymorphisms in Nef that impair function also suggests that CD8+ T-cell pressures play a role in this phenomenon.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science