April 21, 2020  |  

A Highly Unusual V1 Region of Env in an Elite Controller of HIV Infection.

HIV elite controllers represent a remarkable minority of patients who maintain normal CD4+ T-cell counts and low or undetectable viral loads for decades in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. To examine the possible contribution of virus attenuation to elite control, we obtained a primary HIV-1 isolate from an elite controller who had been infected for 19?years, the last 10 of which were in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. Full-length sequencing of this isolate revealed a highly unusual V1 domain in Envelope (Env). The V1 domain in this HIV-1 strain was 49 amino acids, placing it in the top 1% of lengths among the 6,112 Env sequences in the Los Alamos National Laboratory online database. Furthermore, it included two additional N-glycosylation sites and a pair of cysteines suggestive of an extra disulfide loop. Virus with this Env retained good infectivity and replicative capacity; however, analysis of recombinant viruses suggested that other sequences in Env were adapted to accommodate the unusual V1 domain. While the long V1 domain did not confer resistance to neutralization by monoclonal antibodies of the V1/V2-glycan-dependent class, it did confer resistance to neutralization by monoclonal antibodies of the V3-glycan-dependent class. Our findings support results in the literature that suggest a role for long V1 regions in shielding HIV-1 from recognition by V3-directed broadly neutralizing antibodies. In the case of the elite controller described here, it seems likely that selective pressures from the humoral immune system were responsible for driving the highly unusual polymorphisms present in this HIV-1 Envelope.IMPORTANCE Elite controllers have long provided an avenue for researchers to reveal mechanisms underlying control of HIV-1. While the role of host genetic factors in facilitating elite control is well known, the possibility of infection by attenuated strains of HIV-1 has been much less studied. Here we describe an unusual viral feature found in an elite controller of HIV-1 infection and demonstrate its role in conferring escape from monoclonal antibodies of the V3-glycan class. Our results suggest that extreme variation may be needed by HIV-1 to escape neutralization by some antibody specificities. Copyright © 2019 Silver et al.

July 7, 2019  |  

Exception to the rule: Genomic characterization of naturally occurring unusual Vibrio cholerae strains with a single chromosome.

The genetic make-up of most bacteria is encoded in a single chromosome while about 10% have more than one chromosome. Among these, Vibrio cholerae, with two chromosomes, has served as a model system to study various aspects of chromosome maintenance, mainly replication, and faithful partitioning of multipartite genomes. Here, we describe the genomic characterization of strains that are an exception to the two chromosome rules: naturally occurring single-chromosome V. cholerae. Whole genome sequence analyses of NSCV1 and NSCV2 (natural single-chromosome vibrio) revealed that the Chr1 and Chr2 fusion junctions contain prophages, IS elements, and direct repeats, in addition to large-scale chromosomal rearrangements such as inversions, insertions, and long tandem repeats elsewhere in the chromosome compared to prototypical two chromosome V. cholerae genomes. Many of the known cholera virulence factors are absent. The two origins of replication and associated genes are generally intact with synonymous mutations in some genes, as are recA and mismatch repair (MMR) genes dam, mutH, and mutL; MutS function is probably impaired in NSCV2. These strains are ideal tools for studying mechanistic aspects of maintenance of chromosomes with multiple origins and other rearrangements and the biological, functional, and evolutionary significance of multipartite genome architecture in general.

July 7, 2019  |  

Shared features of cryptic plasmids from environmental and pathogenic Francisella species.

The Francisella genus includes several recognized species, additional potential species, and other representatives that inhabit a range of incredibly diverse ecological niches, but are not closely related to the named species. Francisella species have been obtained from a wide variety of clinical and environmental sources; documented species include highly virulent human and animal pathogens, fish pathogens, opportunistic human pathogens, tick endosymbionts, and free-living isolates inhabiting brackish water. While more than 120 Francisella genomes have been sequenced to date, only a few contain plasmids, and most of these appear to be cryptic, with unknown benefit to the host cell. We have identified several putative cryptic plasmids in the sequenced genomes of three Francisella novicida and F. novicida-like strains (TX07-6608, AZ06-7470, DPG_3A-IS) and two new Francisella species (F. frigiditurris CA97-1460 and F. opportunistica MA06-7296). These plasmids were compared to each other and to previously identified plasmids from other Francisella species. Some of the plasmids encoded functions potentially involved in replication, conjugal transfer and partitioning, environmental survival (transcriptional regulation, signaling, metabolism), and hypothetical proteins with no assignable functions. Genomic and phylogenetic comparisons of these new plasmids to the other known Francisella plasmids revealed some similarities that add to our understanding of the evolutionary relationships among the diverse Francisella species.

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