Relative Resistance of MHC-B to Nef-Mediated Downregulation is Conserved Among Primate lentiviruses and Influences Antiviral T cell Responses in HIV-1-Infected Individuals

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Journal of Virology

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Patient-derived HIV-1 subtype B Nef clones downregulate HLA-A more efficiently than HLA-B. However, it remains unknown whether this property is common to Nef proteins across primate lentiviruses, and how antiviral immune responses may be affected. We examined 263 Nef clones from diverse primate lentiviruses including different pandemic HIV-1 group M subtypes for their ability to downregulate MHC-A and MHC-B from the cell surface. Though lentiviral Nef proteins differed markedly in their absolute MHC-A and MHC-B downregulation abilities, all lentiviral Nef lineages downregulated MHC-A on average 11-32% more efficiently than MHC-B. Nef genotype/phenotype analyses in a cohort of HIV-1 subtype C-infected patients (N=168), together with site-directed mutagenesis, revealed Nef position 9 as a subtype-specific determinant of differential HLA-A vs. HLA-B downregulation activity. Nef clones harboring non-consensus variants at codon 9 downregulated HLA-B (though not HLA-A) significantly better than those harboring consensus at this site, resulting in reduced recognition of infected target cells by HIV-1-specific CD8+ effector cells in vitro. Among persons expressing protective HLA class I alleles, carriage of Nef codon 9 variants was also associated with reduced ex vivo HIV-specific T-cell responses. Our results demonstrate that Nef's inferior ability to downregulate MHC-B compared to MHC-A is conserved across primate lentiviruses, and suggest that this property influences antiviral cellular immune responses.



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