Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Immunology and Microbiology


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Paul R. Clapham, Ph.D.


HIV-1, Viral Tropism, Receptors, CCR5, Macrophages, env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus


Around thirty years ago HIV-1 was identified, and from that point the known epidemic has grown to over 30 million infected individuals. Early on in the course of HIV-1 research, viruses were classified as either syncytia inducing, CXCR4-using, T-cell tropic or non-syncytia inducing, CCR5-using, macrophage tropic. Since that time, several groups have shown that this is an oversimplification. There is a great deal of diversity amongst CCR5-using HIV-1 variants. There remains a great deal to be discovered regarding HIV-1 CCR5-tropism and how this affects other aspects of HIV-1 infection.

The CD4 binding site (CD4bs) on the HIV-1 envelope plays a major role in determining the capacity of R5 viruses to infect primary macrophages. Thus, envelope determinants within or proximal to the CD4bs have been shown to control the use of low CD4 levels on macrophages for infection. These residues affect the affinity for CD4 either directly or indirectly by altering the exposure of CD4 contact residues. In this thesis, a single amino acid determinant is described in the V1 loop that also modulates macrophage tropism. I identified an E153G substitution that conferred high levels of macrophage infectivity for several heterologous R5 envelopes, while the reciprocal G153E substitution abrogated infection. Shifts in macrophage tropism were associated with dramatic shifts in sensitivity to the V3 loop monoclonal antibody (MAb), 447-52D and soluble CD4, as well as more modest changes in sensitivity to the CD4bs MAb, b12. These observations are consistent with an altered conformation or exposure of the V3 loop that enables the envelope to use low CD4 levels for infection. The modest shifts in b12 sensitivity suggest that residue 153 impacts on the exposure of the CD4bs. However, the more intense shifts in sCD4 sensitivity suggest additional mechanisms that likely include an increased ability of the envelope to undergo conformational changes following binding to suboptimal levels of cell surface CD4. In summary, a conserved determinant in the V1 loop modulates the V3 loop to prime low CD4 use and macrophage infection.

In addition to determinants, this thesis seeks to evaluate the roles of macrophage tropic and non-macrophage tropic envelopes during the course of infection. Non-macrophage tropic virus predominates in immune tissue throughout infection, even in individuals suffering from HIV-associated dementia (HAD) who are known to carry many macrophage tropic viruses. There must be some advantage for these non-macrophage tropic viruses allowing them to persist in immune tissue throughout the disease. This thesis demonstrates that there is no advantage for these viruses to directly infect CD4+ T-cells, nor is there an advantage for them to be preferentially transmitted by dendritic cells to CD4+ T-cells. Given that transmitted/founder (T/F) viruses may preferentially interact with α4β7, and T/F viruses are non-macrophage tropic, I tested whether non-mac viruses could utilize α4β7 to their advantage. These experiments show that macrophage tropism does not play a role in gp120 interactions with α4β7. I evaluated whether there was a distinct disadvantage to macrophage tropic Envs, given their ability to infect dendritic cells and possibly stimulate the innate immune response. Using infected monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MDDCs), it was shown that mac-tropic Envs do not generate a significant immune response. These experiments demonstrate that there does not appear to be any advantage to non-macrophage tropic Envs, and that macrophage tropic Envs are able to infect CD4+ T-cells more efficiently, as well as DCs.



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