Objective: To identify protective human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles in an HIV-infected south-east Asian population, in whom HLA-B*57 prevalence is lower than other ethnic groups, and HIV-1 CRF01_AE is the dominant circulating subtype.
Design: Cross-sectional study of Thai patients with chronic HIV infection.
Methods: Five hundred and fifty-seven HIV-1 CRF01_AE-infected Thais were recruited. Their HLA type and viral load were determined to statistically analyze the association of each allele in viral control. In-silico molecular dynamics was also used to evaluate the effect of HLA structure variants on epitope binding.
Results: HLA-B*35:05 was identified as the most protective allele (P = 0.003, q = 0.17), along with HLA-B*57:01 (P = 0.044, q = 0.31). Structurally, HLA-B*35:05 belonged to the HLA-B*35-PY group of HLA-B*35 alleles; however, unlike the other HLA-B*35 alleles that carry Arg (R) at residue 97, it has unique sequences at T94, L95, and S97, located within the peptide-binding groove. Analysis of the three-dimensional HLA structure and molecular dynamics indicates that S97 in HLA-B*35:05 leads to less flexibility in the groove, and shorter distances between the α-helixes compared with the disease-susceptible HLA-B*35-PY allele, HLA-B*35:01.
Conclusion: These data indicate the existence of a protective effect of HLA-B*57 across ethnic groups and highlight HLA-B*35:05 as an allele uniquely protective in subtype CRF01_AE-infected Thais. The divergence of HLA-B*35:05 from conventional HLA-B*35-PY structural sequences at the peptide-binding groove is consistent with previous studies that have identified HLA residue 97 as strongly influential in shaping HLA impact on immune control of HIV, and that a more restricted peptide-binding motif may be associated with improved control.