High expression of antiviral and vitamin D pathway genes are a natural characteristic of a small cohort of HIV-1-exposed seronegative individuals

Wbeimar Aguilar-Jimenez, Irma Saulle, Daria Trabattoni, Francesca Vichi, Sergio Lo Caputo, Francesco Mazzotta, Maria Teresa Rugeles, Mario Clerici, Mara Biasin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural resistance to HIV-1 infection is influenced by genetics, viral-exposure, and endogenous immunomodulators such as vitamin D (VitD), being a multifactorial phenomenon that characterizes HIV-1-exposed seronegative individuals (HESNs). We compared mRNA expression of 10 antivirals, 5 immunoregulators, and 3 VitD pathway genes by qRT-PCR in cells of a small cohort of 11 HESNs, 16 healthy-controls (HCs), and 11 seropositives (SPs) at baseline, in response to calcidiol (VitD precursor) and/or aldithriol-2-(AT2)-inactivated HIV-1. In addition, the expression of TIM-3 on T and NK cells of six HCs after calcidiol and calcitriol (active VitD) treatments was evaluated by flow cytometry. Calcidiol increased the mRNA expression of HAVCR2 (TIM-3; Th1-cells inhibitor) in HCs and HESNs. AT2-HIV-1 increased the mRNA expression of the activating VitD enzyme CYP27B1, of the endogenous antiviral proteins MX2, TRIM22, APOBEC3G, and of immunoregulators ERAP2 and HAVCR2, but reduced the mRNA expression of VitD receptor (VDR) and antiviral peptides PI3 and CAMP in all groups. Remarkably, higher mRNA levels of VDR, CYP27B1, PI3, CAMP, SLPI, and of ERAP2 were found in HESNs compared to HCs either at baseline or after stimuli. Furthermore, calcitriol increases the percentage of CD4+ T cells expressing TIM-3 protein compared to EtOH controls. These results suggest that high mRNA expression of antiviral and VitD pathway genes could be genetically determined in HESNs more than viral-induced at least in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Moreover, the virus could potentiate bio-activation and use of VitD, maintaining the homeostasis of the immune system. Interestingly, VitD-induced TIM-3 on T cells, a T cell inhibitory and anti-HIV-1 molecule, requires further studies to analyze the functional outcomes during HIV-1 infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number136
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberFEB
Publication statusPublished - Feb 13 2017


  • Antiviral agents
  • HIV-1
  • HIV-1-exposed seronegative individuals
  • Natural resistance
  • Vitamin D

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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