TLR3 recognizes dsRNA and activates antiviral immune responses through the production of inflammatory cytokines and type I IFNs. Genetic association studies have provided evidence concerning the role of a polymorphism in TLR3 (rs3775291, Leu412Phe) in viral infection susceptibility. We genotyped rs3775291 in a population of Spanish HIV-1-exposed seronegative (HESN) individuals who remain HIV seronegative despite repeated exposure through i.v. injection drug use (IDU-HESN individuals) as witnessed by their hepatitis C virus seropositivity. The frequency of individuals carrying at least one 412Phe allele was significantly higher in IDU-HESN individuals compared with that of a matched control sample (odds ratio for a dominant model = 1.87; 95% confidence interval, 1.06-3.34; p = 0.023). To replicate this finding, we analyzed a cohort of Italian, sexually HESN individuals. Similar results were obtained: the frequency of individuals carrying at least one 412Phe allele was significantly higher compared with that of a matched control sample (odds ratio, 1.79; 95% confidence interval, 1.05-3.08; p = 0.029). In vitro infection assays showed that in PBMCs carrying the 412Phe allele, HIV-1 Ba-L replication was significantly reduced (p = 0.025) compared with that of Leu/Leu homozygous samples and was associated with a higher expression of factors suggestive of a state of immune activation (IL-6, CCL3, CD69). Similarly, stimulation of PBMCs with a TLR3 agonist indicated that the presence of the 412Phe allele results in a significantly increased expression of CD69 and higher production of proinflammatory cytokines including IL-6 and CCL3. The data of this study indicate that a common TLR3 allele confers immunologically mediated protection from HIV-1 and suggest the potential use of TLR3 triggering in HIV-1 immunotherapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas