Human endogenous retrotransposable elements (HEREs) make up approximately 42% of the human genome. Included amongst these elements are the LTR associated human endogenous retrovirus insertions (HERVs), and the non-LTR associated long and short interspersed nuclear elements (LINE and SINE). The prevalence of HERV elements has resulted from the accumulation of past retroviral infectious agents that have entered the germline and established a truce with the host cell. LINE and SINE elements, which are not thought to have been derived from infectious precursors, have proliferated throughout the genome by a 'copy and paste'retrotransposition mechanism. Recent data have shown that these elements are under the cellular control of the innate resistance factors APOBEC3B, 3A, 3F and 3G. We have generated data that show HIV-1 infection of primary CD4+ T cells and macrophages in vitro resulted in enhanced levels of HERE transcripts, and the accumulation of additional HERE genomic copies, indicating the induction of successfully completed retrotransposition events. HERE proliferation was restricted to HIV-1 infected cells. HERE transcripts in the plasma were detected in individuals with acute/early HIV-1 infection not on antiretroviral drug treatment. These latter individuals had detectable ex vivo T cell responses to HERV antigens, and the magnitude of the anti- HERE response inversely correlated with HIV-1 plasma viral load. This grant proposes in 3 specific aims to understand the consequence of HERE antigen production and presentation in HIV-1 infection, and to determine whether the immune response generated to these elements can eliminate HIV-1 infected cells. In the 1st specific aim we will ascertain the breadth and degree of endogenous retroelement expression (LINE-1, HERV-K) in HIV-1 infection. In the 2nd specific aim we will determine the relationship between anti-HERE T cell response and HIV-1 plasma viral load. In the 3rd specific aim we will determine if anti-HERE T cell clones recognize virus infected cells in vitro and if they can suppress HIV-1 viral replication in a viral inhibition assay. Our preliminary data indicate that HIV-1 infection leads to HERE expression and stimulates a HERE-specific immune response, suggesting a novel vaccine strategy against HIV-1. Elicitation of T cells against HEREs by vaccination would lead to T cell recognition of HIV-1 via both cross-reactivity between HEREs and HIV-1 and independent recognition of HERE antigens produced by HIV-1 infected cells. The work proposed in this grant aims to better understand the role of HERE expression and immunity in the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection and to generate data for a novel vaccine strategy against HIV-1.

Public Health Relevance

The goal of this proposal is to better understand the interaction of endogenous retroelements, the fossil viruses and junk DNA in our genome, and HIV infection. This information will be used to devise future studies to treat HIV infection and design a novel vaccine against HIV/AIDS.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
AIDS Immunology and Pathogenesis Study Section (AIP)
Program Officer
Stansell, Elizabeth H
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
George Washington University
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Michaud, Henri-Alexandre; SenGupta, Devi; de Mulder, Miguel et al. (2014) Cutting edge: An antibody recognizing ancestral endogenous virus glycoproteins mediates antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity on HIV-1-infected cells. J Immunol 193:1544-8
Michaud, Henri-Alexandre; de Mulder, Miguel; SenGupta, Devi et al. (2014) Trans-activation, post-transcriptional maturation, and induction of antibodies to HERV-K (HML-2) envelope transmembrane protein in HIV-1 infection. Retrovirology 11:10
Jones, R Brad; Leal, Fabio E; Hasenkrug, Aaron M et al. (2013) Human endogenous retrovirus K(HML-2) Gag and Env specific T-cell responses are not detected in HTLV-I-infected subjects using standard peptide screening methods. J Negat Results Biomed 12:3
Jones, R Brad; Song, Haihan; Xu, Yang et al. (2013) LINE-1 retrotransposable element DNA accumulates in HIV-1-infected cells. J Virol 87:13307-20
Sacha, Jonah B; Kim, In-Jeong; Chen, Lianchun et al. (2012) Vaccination with cancer- and HIV infection-associated endogenous retrotransposable elements is safe and immunogenic. J Immunol 189:1467-79
Lai, Olivia Y; Chen, Haoyan; Michaud, Henri-Alexandre et al. (2012) Protective effect of human endogenous retrovirus K dUTPase variants on psoriasis susceptibility. J Invest Dermatol 132:1833-40
Ormsby, Christopher E; Sengupta, Devi; Tandon, Ravi et al. (2012) Human endogenous retrovirus expression is inversely associated with chronic immune activation in HIV-1 infection. PLoS One 7:e41021
Jones, R Brad; Garrison, Keith E; Mujib, Shariq et al. (2012) HERV-K-specific T cells eliminate diverse HIV-1/2 and SIV primary isolates. J Clin Invest 122:4473-89
Jones, R Brad; John, Vivek M; Hunter, Diana V et al. (2012) Human endogenous retrovirus K(HML-2) Gag- and Env-specific T-cell responses are infrequently detected in HIV-1-infected subjects using standard peptide matrix-based screening. Clin Vaccine Immunol 19:288-92
SenGupta, Devi; Tandon, Ravi; Vieira, Raphaella G S et al. (2011) Strong human endogenous retrovirus-specific T cell responses are associated with control of HIV-1 in chronic infection. J Virol 85:6977-85

Showing the most recent 10 out of 21 publications