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HIV Insertions Within and Proximal to Host Cell Genes Are a Common Finding in Tissues Containing High Levels of HIV DNA and Macrophage-Associated p24 Antigen Expression

Mack K. D.; Jin, X.; Yu, S.; Wei, R.; Kapp, L.; Green, C.; Herndier, B.; Abbey, N. W.; Elbaggari, A.; Liu, Y.; McGrath, M. S.
JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes: July 1st, 2003

HIV integration within host cell genomic DNA is a requisite step of the viral infection cycle. Yet, characteristics of the sites of provirus integration within the host genome remain obscure. The authors present evidence that in diseased tissues showing a high level of HIV DNA and macrophage-associated HIV p24 antigen expression from end stage forms of HIV disease, HIV-1 integration sites were favored within genes and transcriptionally active host cell genomic loci. Using an inverse PCR (IPCR) technique that identified dominant integrated forms of HIV, clonal IPCR products were isolated from AIDS dementia, AIDS lymphoma, and angioimmunoblastic lymphadenopathy tissues. Thirty of 34 disease-associated HIV-1 insertions were identified within annotated and hypothetical genes, an unexpected but highly nonrandom genetic coding region association (p < .026). The 1% sensitivity thresholds used for HIV IPCR suggested some form of selective expansion of cells containing these HIV proviruses. Consistent with this interpretation were the HIV-1 insertion sites identified within introns of genes that encoded for factors associated with signal transduction, apoptosis, and transcription regulation. In addition, HIV-1 proviruses were frequently found proximal to genes that encoded for receptor-associated, signal transduction-associated, transcription-associated, and translation-associated proteins. HIV-1 integration within host cell genomic DNA potentially represents a significant insertional mutagenic event. In certain cases, provirus insertions may mediate the dysregulation of specific gene expression events, providing mechanisms contributing to the pathogenesis associated with certain AIDS-related diseases.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Michael S. McGrath, University of California, San Francisco, CA. E-mail:

The work was performed at University of California at San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco, California and at SLIL Biomedical Corporation, Menlo Park, California.

Manuscript received December 12, 2002; accepted April 3, 2003.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.